Bucyrus, OH asked in Civil Rights and Constitutional Law for Indiana

Q: Can police use their blind bar on car while driving to get probable cause for a stop?

Police car followed me used overhead light bar to blind into a curve from behind then used that as probable cause for a stop.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Consumer Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: No, it is generally not legal for police to use their blinding overhead lights solely as a pretext to establish probable cause to pull someone over.

The use of blinding lights could only be justified if the officer already had an articulable reasonable suspicion that a traffic violation or crime occurred. They cannot create probable cause out of nothing by blinding a driver first.

Additionally, intentionally blinding an oncoming driver with lights could actually jeopardize public safety and potentially violate state statutes regarding prudent operation of emergency vehicles or improper use of high beam headlights.

If the overhead lights were turned on as an intentional tactic to then find some reason to pull you over, rather than in response to already observed unlawful or dangerous driving, that would likely be an improper pretext stop.

Evidence obtained from such a bad faith stop could potentially be excluded. A defense attorney could file a suppression motion challenging the reasonableness of the stop and lack of prior proper probable cause before the blinding lights were used.

So in short, no the police cannot manufacture probable cause out of thin air by blinding oncoming drivers. That tactic would likely not hold up in court if challenged on legal grounds. Any counsel would need specifics, but the scenario raises constitutional issues.

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