Stopping for Weaving is Unconstitutional

Police may stop a vehicle for reasonable suspicion – specific facts that suggest criminal activity may be afoot – or probable cause that the car in fact is committing a crime by, perhaps, speeding, having expired registration, or violating another motor vehicle law.

When police rely upon reasonable suspicion, they must be able to articulate facts that indicate that the driver of the car may be engaged in criminal activity. Your lawyer will often ask you about why you think your car was stopped as a way to determine whether reasonable suspicion existed in your case.

What constitutes enough facts to meet the reasonable suspicion standard? The NC Court of Appeals recently held in State v. Otto that weaving alone is not enough.

Megan Sue Otto (Defendant) appeals from a judgment imposing a suspended sentence based on her conviction for driving while impaired. On appeal, Defendant contends that the trial court erred by denying her motion to suppress on the grounds that the arresting officer lacked the required reasonable suspicion immediately prior to the stop that she was driving while impaired. For the following reasons, we reverse.

Stopping for weaving in the lane is unreasonable. While weaving may be an indicator along with other evidence (driving too slow, driving in an area with bars), weaving alone can’t be used to support a lawful stop.

The weaving was observed for 3/4 of a mile, and was quite pronounced. But the weaving alone was not enough to support a stop.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.