Many of us do not always use our turn signals, even though the Vehicle Code requires that we do so. Often clients will come into the office after being stopped by the police for nothing more than failing to use a turn signal. Upon being stopped the client is either under the influence or in possession of something illegal.
On the witness stand police officers will frequently admit that they personally often fail to use their turn signals. Many cops will admit that they do not always pull over every turn signal offender. However, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has approved of the police pulling drivers over for turn signal violations alone and if the driver is then found to be committing a more serious crime, the charges will not be dismissed even though the initial stop was for a minor infraction that is not always enforced by the police officer or his department.
In the recent case of Commonwealth v. Brown the Superior Court wrote that a police officer has the authority to stop a vehicle when he or she has reasonable suspicion that a violation of the vehicle code has taken place, for the purpose of obtaining necessary information to enforce the provisions of the code. However, if the violation is such that it requires no additional investigation, the officer must have probable cause to initiate the stop.
What does this mean? In practice out on the streets it means that the police can pull over any driver they see who does not use his turn signal. Afterwards the police can and will charge the driver for either the vehicle code violation, or for more serious felonies or misdemeanors if other evidence is discovered during the car stop. When the case gets to court the police officer may tailor his or her testimony to fit the facts of the case so that the likelihood of having the more serious evidence suppressed, or thrown out, is greatly reduced.
We all know that the police do not usually hit their lights and pull someone over at lunchtime for failure to use turn signals. However, if you are driving at 2:00 a.m. the chance of getting pulled over for this minor infraction increases greatly. To protect yourself from “hunch” stops by police on a whim, always use your turn signals, without fail. Doing so will not only protect you and other drivers on the road, it may also prevent you from being the target of a car stop simply because there is little else to do in the middle of the night.
If you are the target of a police stop and you have been charged with a crime, you need a lawyer who can review the case and put together a defense that will protect you and your drivers’ license. Give us a call at 215-822-1888 to discuss your case.