Can a Cop Pull You Over Outside Their Jurisdiction?
What is a Police Officer’s Jurisdiction?
A police officer’s jurisdiction generally refers to the geographic area in which they have legal authority to carry out law enforcement duties such as traffic stops and arrests. An individual officer’s jurisdiction is usually limited to city, county, or state lines.
City and county limits
Most police departments only have jurisdiction within the city or county they serve. For example, a city police officer may lack authority to pull over and ticket cars outside the city limits. Similarly, a county deputy sheriff’s jurisdiction typically ends at the county line.
State police and highway patrol agencies often have statewide jurisdiction. However, they may still have policies restricting traffic enforcement across jurisdictional lines.
When Can Cops Make Traffic Stops Outside Their Area?
While police jurisdiction is generally limited, there are some exceptions where officers can legally stop vehicles outside their normal boundaries:
“Hot pursuit” exception
If the police are actively chasing a suspect who commits violations as they travel across jurisdiction lines, cops from the originating agency can continue the pursuit and carry out a stop even after leaving their area.
Investigating serious crimes
An officer who is investigating a felony crime like homicide or kidnapping is sometimes allowed to conduct related traffic stops even outside their jurisdiction.
Mutual aid agreements
Many police agencies now have mutual aid contracts permitting interjurisdictional traffic stops under certain conditions. These are often used to enable drug interdiction along highways.
What If You Get Pulled Over Improperly?
If a police officer conducts a traffic stop outside their legal authority, there may be consequences:
The traffic stop may be invalid
The officer could be violating local laws or agency policy by stopping a car outside their jurisdiction without proper cause. This makes the traffic stop constitutionally invalid.
Any evidence collected may be inadmissible
If the invalid stop leads to a vehicle search and discovery of drugs, weapons, etc., that evidence could get excluded from court. This is known as “fruit of the poisonous tree.”
You may be able to file a complaint
Getting pulled over improperly often qualifies as police misconduct. Filing an administrative complaint can discipline the officer and deter future unauthorized stops.
Ways to Challenge an Out-of-Jurisdiction Stop
If you were pulled over illegally outside an officer’s area, there may be legal remedies available:
Fight the traffic ticket
You can request a hearing to contest the ticket on grounds it arose from an unlawful stop outside the department’s limits.
File a motion to suppress evidence
If you received a criminal charge like DUI from an invalid traffic stop, your defense lawyer can request the suppression of resulting evidence.
Report police misconduct
Most agencies have citizen complaint procedures for investigating constitutional rights violations stemming from improper enforcement.
Tips if Stopped Outside Officer’s Area
If a cop pulls you over and you suspect it may be outside their jurisdiction, here are some tips:
Comply with orders to avoid escalation
Pull over promptly and provide license/registration as usual. Unsafe attempts to avoid the stop could lead to serious charges.
Clarify jurisdictional issue respectfully
You can inquire or express concern about the stop’s location being outside their area, but avoid confrontation.
Follow up with legal options after the fact
If the traffic stop violation remains unresolved, consulting a local lawyer to protect your rights is recommended.
While the law aims to restrict traffic enforcement to an officer’s jurisdiction, some exceptions do enable cops to stop vehicles across district and state lines in special circumstances. But if you are improperly pulled over, failing to comply initially carries safety risks and legal consequences. Following up civilly against misconduct may be advisable. Knowing officers’ limitations and standing up for your rights judiciously helps balance roadway safety and personal freedom.
Can a sheriff’s deputy pull me over outside their county?
Generally no, unless it meets an exception like hot pursuit across county lines or a mutual aid agreement with the adjoining jurisdiction.
Do federal officers like FBI have unlimited jurisdiction?
Federal agencies have very broad jurisdiction but may still require reasonable suspicion of a federal crime to pull over vehicles.
Should I stop right away if pulled over out-of-jurisdiction?
Yes, safely pulling over is legally required even for invalid stops. Contesting the improper stop can be done afterwards.
Is an officer required to answer if I ask if it’s out of their jurisdiction?
While not legally required, professional officers should provide clarification if politely asked about a stop location’s propriety.
Can I sue the officer personally over an improper stop?
You would need to sue their agency or department rather than individual officer to pursue police misconduct remedies.