Why did the officer stop me and if he had a good reason, why didn't I get a ticket for that? 

by David A. Cmelik LaW PLC

Frequently, I will hear that a law enforcement officer (LEO) justified his or her seizure of a defendant using a minor traffic violation, like speeding, or an equipment violation, like a burned out license plate light. These are often “pretextual stops” that are explained here.

However, sometimes arrestees believe the officer’s failure to cite the defendant with the initial, minor violation indicates their unwillingness to acknowledge the stop was pretextual or a failure of the evidence to justify that initial stop. Somehow their failure to cite the defendant is a sign they did something wrong.

Unfortunately, the failure to cite a defendant for the reason for the initial stop, for example, speeding, improper use of lanes, or a “fix it” ticket for a minor equipment violation doesn’t mean that the officer is hesitant to pursue it. It means only that (1) the officer dispelled the reason for the stop but elevated his or her suspicion to something else like, for example, marijuana possession or drunk driving; or (2) the officer felt they had already justified the stop but didn’t want to pursue a minor traffic ticket thus using their discretion. More frequently, the opposite is true: officers can and do cite for minor traffic violations that are used to “pile on” the defendant and, in turn, are used to negotiate plea agreements with their dismissal at defendants’ cost.

So the seemingly “opposite world” phenomenon of a LEO refusing or failing to cite for the minor violation seems odd and optimistic defendants hope to assign some value to that decision that might be helpful to their defense. 

Even if an officer fails to cite for a traffic violation, the prosecutor and the LEO can still use it to justify the stop in the more serious, often indictable, criminal offense later charged during the investigation that took place all because of a simple traffic stop. 


Sometimes arrestees believe the officer's failure to cite a defendant with the initial, minor violation indicates an unwillingness to acknowledge a defect in law enforcement reasons.

Does speed really kill? Officer Friendly conducting "routine patrol" has the authority to conduct a traffic stop and cite a motorist for a violation of Iowa Code Chapter 321, the rules of the road, but requires additional cause to exceed the scope of the original stop and elevate it to a more serious investigation, say, for example, in an OWI (DUI) or narcotics case. If you or a loved one has been arrested for a criminal offense in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Waterloo, or other Iowa community, contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC at https://www.daclawfirm.com or 319-389-1889 today


1450 Boyson Road Suite C-2A Hiawatha, Iowa 52233     319-389-1889



However, note that LEOs need more than a hunch to extend a traffic stop for, say, a more serious narcotics investigation or even drunk driving. 


If you or a loved one has been arrested for OWI (DUI) in the State of Iowa, please contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC at 319-389-1889 or www.daclawfirm.com for a free initial consultation today.


However, please understand that a blog is not legal advice and that no attorney-client relationship is established by sending unsolicited information to an attorney over the Internet. 


See our sister OWI (DUI) site here.

cedar rapids / iowa city criminal defense