It’s Never “Just” a Traffic Stop

It’s Never “Just” a Traffic StopIt doesn’t take much for a minor traffic ticket or a minor offense to snowball into a major catastrophe. One moment, you’re driving and listening to the radio. The next moment a police officer has stopped you and asked you for your driver’s license, registration records, and insurance information. Some of the information that the police seek may incriminate you. The police may not like the way you responded or hesitated, which can cause them to charge with you an offense you didn’t commit.

It’s always advisable to speak with a lawyer for any traffic offense. The cost of the ticket could be much more than the standard fine. Some traffic tickets result in points being assessed against your driving record. If you have too many points, your license could be suspended or revoked. If the offense is for a moving violation, your insurance rates are likely going to rise dramatically. And those penalties are just for the motor vehicle ticket. The offense could escalate into something much more serious. An experienced Franklin criminal defense lawyer will help defend you and assert your rights.

A recent example of how a traffic ticket can snowball

A recent report in The Tennessean illustrates how a simple ticket led to a woman being charged with several felonies that affected her life in many tragic ways. The driver, Naya Abbey, was stopped by officers “with drawn weapons” with her eight-year-old autistic son in the backseat when she didn’t pull over right away; a police officer signaled for her to stop by turning on his police vehicle’s emergency lights after noticing that the license plate on her car had expired.

The accounts of what happened next differ.

A police radio report, according to The Tennessean appeared to indicate that Officer Stucky asked for a helicopter to pursue Abbey because she didn’t pull over when Stuckey flashed his lights. Abbey says she doesn’t remember Stuckey trying to pull her over. Stuckey claims he “briefly” turned on his siren but didn’t keep it activated. The Metro’s Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) “doesn’t show that Stuckey ever activated the car’s emergency equipment.” The DA indicated Abbey might not have heard the siren even if they were on due to her son’s agitated state.

Stuckey claims Abbey then nearly struck a pedestrian and ran a red right light trying to flee his request to stop. Abbey denies both allegations.

Abbey states that she did stop when she first noticed the officer’s lights around the same time the helicopter was circling above. She was charged with two felonies – evading arrest and reckless endangerment. Her license was suspended due to an unpaid ticket. Even though she had no prior record, she was booked on $10,000 bond and released after the bond was posted.

Those arrests cost Abbey her job at Cigna and any possibility of getting a better job. Her failure to have a job led to a loss of housing, a miscarriage, and the need to move from Nashville, Tennessee to Detroit, Michigan. Her brother told the paper “Abbey became paranoid about encountering the police again and was living in fear… In early 2020, she made the hard decision of sending her son to live with his father in Alabama.”

Abbey refused a plea deal because she said she was innocent and because she’d have a felony record. The charges against Abby were ultimately dismissed. Her criminal record is now clean. She’s filed a complaint against “Metro Nashville and Metro Nashville Police Officer Terrance Stuckey, the arresting officer, in federal court over accusations of false arrest, malicious prosecution, and police perjury.”

How can a lawyer help when traffic stops lead to more serious offenses?

We understand that what happened to Ms. Abbey is an extreme example. We also know that she’s not the only person whose life turned upside down over a traffic stop. In February, for example, a man was arrested on felony charges and spent more than a year in jail despite being illegally detained during his traffic stop. Last year, a delivery driver with expired registration tags was arrested and subjected to excessive force after pulling into the wrong driveway.

If Ms. Abbey had been our client, we may have taken the following steps as part of her defense strategy:

  • Conducting a thorough cross-examination of the police officer.
  • Questioning the officer’s credibility by examining the other wrongful arrest settlement and other complaints against the officer.
  • Requesting any exculpatory evidence.
  • Arguing that her son’s condition prevented her from hearing the stop.
  • Speaking with any witnesses.
  • Negotiating a plea bargain to a misdemeanor or to a traffic offense.

The steps we take for our clients depend, of course, on the circumstances of the case.

A traffic stop can easily spiral out of control. This is why you always want to work with an experienced attorney if you are facing any kind of criminal charges – even those stemming from a traffic stop. Remember that the initial charges may not be the only ones you face; more can be added. Having a Franklin defense lawyer on your side from the start means that you’re prepared for every contingency.

Speak with an attorney as soon as you’ve been arrested. Early intervention by a skilled defense lawyer can often prevent a simple case from escalating into a much more serious case. The Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates has been aggressively fighting for the accused for 30 years. We have the experience to assert your rights and the skills to calmly speak with police and district attorneys so minor matters stay minor. Call us today or use our convenient contact form to schedule your initial consultation with a criminal defense lawyer in Franklin, Brentwood, or Columbia. We make in-custody visits if you are being detained.