It is one of the most frequent questions that people ask lawyers, when can the police stop my vehicle? For most of us, our primary interaction with law enforcement is on the road. There are literally hundreds of traffic laws, very few drivers follow them all of the time, which may be sometimes going a little over the speed limit, or, doing something that we do not even know is illegal, such as a dangling object hanging on the rear-view mirror. Believe it or not, the fuzzy dice, the pine tree air freshener, or anything else break the law when they dangle from the mirror.
A police officer can pull you over if they see you violating a traffic law, speeding, running a light, having something on your rear-view mirror, or violating any other traffic law. The officer may well have another reason for stopping you besides the object hanging from your mirror, or for driving 3mph over the limit, but they do not need to tell you what the other reason is. An officer can also stop you if they suspect you of any wrongdoing, for example if you are running away from a closed store and jumping into your car the officer may think you were robbing the place or if the officer got a call about someone who committed a crime unrelated to driving, and you match the description, the officer can pull you over. You can also be pulled over for what is called an equipment violation, i.e., your taillight is out, your muffler is too loud, etc. All that the officer needs is a reason they can state, what the law calls ‘a reasonable, articulable suspicion’, that you were in some way violating the law, either by your driving conduct, an issue with your car, or, by some action committed outside of your car. The reason cannot be based on what you are, i.e., your race, gender, etc. It also cannot be based on your driving in a certain area, or at a certain time, just because you are on the road at 2 am, or in a certain part of town does not mean you are up to no good. The law prohibits officers from racial profiling, pulling people over because of their race, but unfortunately some departments and officers have been caught engaging in profiling.
You might ask where in the Minnesota Statutes you will find these rules. You will not find them anywhere, they are in what is called case law, decisions of Minnesota higher courts, Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, and some decisions from the federal appeals courts and U.S. Supreme Court. If you are not a lawyer, it is hard to know all of the rules that evolve from literally hundreds of higher court decisions.
You can find in state statutes the numerous traffic laws, if you have some time to read them over you will have a better idea of whether you are violating some of the little-known rules of the road.