California, MD asked in Civil Rights and Criminal Law for Maryland

Q: Is it legal for the police to detain you and call a K-9 unit out solely because you have a single past criminal charge?

My husband and I pulled out of our driveway and passed a state trooper who immediately turned around, followed us for 2 miles (long enough to run our tags and see that he has a 5 year old closed misdemeanor drug case against him) then pulled us over into a parking lot. He said he pulled us over for having our high beams on (The headlights on our 2003 car are very dim so there’s no way he could’ve mistaken them) and asked for license and registration, as soon as he saw his id he asked us to step out of the vehicle, detained us and called the K-9 unit. When we asked what gave him probable cause to detain us he said he didn’t need it because of his past record and because he “seemed nervous”. This is the 3rd time the MD state police have done this in less than a year, they never find anything, always give a weak reason for pulling us over and say his record is all the cause they need to detain us for a K-9 search, Is this legal & do we have grounds to file a harassment complaint?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Robert C. Bonsib
Robert C. Bonsib
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Greenbelt, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: Unfortunately - this happens all to often.

If the police have a legitimate reason to stop a vehicle - the duration of the stop must be analyzed by the reason for the stop - for a minor traffic violation the time period should be brief - if there is no reason for the stop - then the stop should not occur - detaining you simply to permit a K-9 to arrive because of minor prior record is unlawful

Filing a complaint with the involved police agency should be your first step

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