Can you be pulled over for NOT violating traffic laws?

Story here. In a nutshell, police in a small town in California are pulling over motorists who are NOT violating traffic laws, and rewarding them with $5 Starbucks gift cards. I may start another thread on whether this is a good idea or not, but from a factual perspective, is this even legal? Could the recipient of one of these cards have a cause of action against the police department if the time lost to the encounter made them late for something important? What about infliction of distress, since most people get stressed out when the see flashing lights in their rearview mirrors?

Oh, brother. How stupid is that? :smack: I’m embarrassed that it’s in Rancho Cordova (next door to Sacramento). My reward for good driving should be to be left the fuck alone to go about my business. That, to me, is worth far more than your stupid coffee card.

OOps, I did not notice this is GQ. :smack: on me.

Well, it raises some legal issues.

Unlikely, but the practices raise more serious issues:

  1. What if you don’t stop?

  2. What if you do, and they spot contraband or evidence of a crime?

What they’re engaging in is a friendly, but perhaps misguided, unreasonable temporary seizure of you and your vehicle. If you stop and they see a severed head on your passenger seat, it’s a safe bet you’re getting arrested. Whether they can get the head into evidence will probably turn on the inevitable discovery doctrine. A severed head on a carseat is likely to be spotted; a roach in the ashtray, not so much.

What if you don’t stop, though. Does your flight alone give them grounds to stop you? *Cf. * Illinois v. Wardlow: (individually may ignore officer who lacks reasonable suspicion without creating reasonable suspicion, but individual’s unprovoked flight from police might generate reasonable suspicion).

Yeah, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? See a car that you think is “suspicious” but you don’t have any probable cause to pull them over? Pull them over anyway, but claim it is to give them a gift card.

“You weren’t doing anything wrong. I was just pulling you over the give you a gift card. But I think I smell marijuana. Step out of the car.”

It’s not new. There’s been programs like this in past - I remember some jurisdiction handing out cards for free burgers at McDonald’s. If there was a problem with it, it probably would have surfaced then.

Every year an out of state family gets “arrested” here and given box seats to the rodeo and lodging for the night, probably some dining allowances as well. They always show a smiling family posing with the officer and the Chamber of Commerce welcoming committee. They’ve been doing it for about as long as I can remember, but that may just mean that nobody has bothered to file a complaint.

Interesting. We have R.I.D.E. (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) programs here in Ontario where police will set up road-side breathalyser tests for anyone and everyone who they want to question. These are set up in locations where once you’re on the given road there’s no chance of turning off, or backtracking to avoid them. If you’ve been drinking, you’re toast. If you haven’t been drinking, and all your papers are in order, then you might also get a corporate-sponsored free coffee from Tim Hortons or something.

The Ontario courts long ago ruled that the small infringement on human rights was well beneath the rights of public safety as a whole.

Sounds to me you’re on the same slippery slope.

Just going to correct you slightly. It was the Supreme Court of Canada, and they were constitutional rights. A nice summary of the answers to “Are RIDE programs unconstitutional?” is found in R. v. Hufsky, [1988] 1 S.C.R. 621 at paragraph 24:

Spoons, interesting info. I did some investigation of “s. 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms” and wow, that’s some seriously worrisome legislature. As an American I was unaware of that stipulation and I must say that I would very much dislike living under it.

As to the OP, if I ever got pulled over for something like that I’d be apoplectic.

It does seem scary in the context you see it here. But there are also many examples in Canadian caselaw of laws that could not stand up to a Charter s. 1 challenge, and were struck down by the courts. It’s sort of like a check or balance, and should prevent Parliament or provincial legislatures from enacting laws without regard to their constitutional consequences. Of course, if the Supreme Court ever gets an agenda into its head (as seems to happen at times) and attempts to “shoehorn” an impugned law into being saved by section 1, then we’re all screwed. :slight_smile:

Going back to the OP, I would assume that the police only give out the cards during daytime hours for safety reasons. And they probably don’t turn the siren on.

Even though my burning hatred of Starbucks is well-known, I would happily take a $5 gift card for not breaking the law. I’ve been practically driving in the middle of a pig parade ever since I moved into the neighborhood next to the cop shop, and all I’ve gotten in return for my obedience of the law is paranoia.

I didn’t violate any traffic laws today. Can they just mail me the gift card?

Wait a minute…I did jaywalk. Rats!

Even if this is legal, this practice will stop after the first person takes off in panic, and ends in a fatal crash. Shortly thereafter, it will no longer be legal.

Not sure what you mean. Random DWI check points have been found to be legal through several court challenges. They happen all the time in the states.

ETA: I don’t know of anything that would make the situation in the OP illegal. I find it really dumb but I can’t think of anything off the top of my head to make it illegal. Gfactor brings up some excellent points.

I have to have reasonable suspicion to pull someone over, and NOT violating the law doesn’t cut it. I’m waiting for the first legal case on this.

This sounds like a ridiculous waste of police resources. There are other public relations programs the department can participate in that doesn’t squander man hours like this. How many violators drove by while this dopey cop was giving out coffee coupons?

And why are we rewarding people for doing what they’re suppose to be doing in the first place? I don’t need praise from Big Brother, to be patted on the head and told “good boy” like one does to a freaking dog!

John Bunnell: This crook thought he could get away from a gift card, but now he’ll get plenty of free coffee, in jail!

Michigan stopped the closing of streets for blind paper searches a few years ago. I just do not want to give up my right to go around minding my own business. I got caught up in a long line once and had to go to the bathroom. I jumped out and walked up and told the cops offering to show my papers then. They got all annoyed and yelled at me. I had to wait in line. I stop at a bar to go to the toilet. I had no plans to do so.

Like I said, it’s been done before. I’ll bet if you dug, you would find somebody trying to start a legal case for those programs, and having it thrown out. I don’t like it either - I don’t need the inconvenience of being pulled over just to find that the cop wants to hand me a free burger or a Starbucks latte. But I think they can do it legally. And possibly, enough people react with “Why, thank you, officer, how nice of you” that the gimmick keeps surfacing as a PR exercise.