“Be on the Lookout Call” Alone Does not Permit Police to Stop Car (Commonwealth v. Rosser)

Recently, the Virginia Court of Appeals held that a traffic stop was illegal when the officer stopped the vehicle primarily because he received a “be on the look out,” call.  Specifically, the officer was informed to be on the look out for a gold Nissan Maxima driven by a bald male “connected with drug activity,” which would be in the “Red House Road area…in that time frame.” 

The Officer spotted a gold maxima and followed it for some time.  The officer ultimately conducted the traffic stop because the maxima made an “abrupt right turn…which struck [the officer] as odd because it appeared, in light of his experience and training, that the driver was trying to evade contact with law enforcement.”  The stop resulted in the officer finding illegal contraband. 

Why is This Important for Virginia Drivers?

This case is important because it shows that there are limits on what police can do.  Just because you are stopped, doesn’t mean it’s a legal stop.  Officer’s need more than “hunches” that you are doing something illegal, or anonymous calls boasting that you are doing illegal activity.  If you are ultimately charged with crime based upon a traffic stop, this is an area that needs to be explored when developing your defense – was your stop legal? 

What’s also Important About This Opinion?

For those of you who like reading the actual opinion text, the Court of Appeals actually addressed the recent US Supreme Court Case, Navarette, which seems to say that police can stop drivers simply because they receive a “be on the lookout call,” about that driver.  Without getting into the details of Navarette in this blog post, the Court in Rosser does a very thorough analysis as to why the stop here was starkly different that those presented to the US Supreme Court.

James S. Abrenio
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Focusing on criminal, traffic defense and personal injury cases
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