Traffic Stop Led to Rights Violations, Couple Alleges

Claiming that New Rochelle police violated their civil rights during a 2008 traffic stop, a couple are suing the city and individual police officers for over $12 million.

A Stop Gone Wrong

When police ordered the woman driver to pull over, she complied, but one of the police officers ordered her male passenger to get out of the car. An officer searched the man, questioned him, and allegedly punched him, choked him and threw him across the hood of the police car, injuring his jaw.

The injured man was taken to a police station and held there without medical care for an hour. When he was taken to a hospital, he was handcuffed to a bed for hours before he posted bail and was let go. His case was later dismissed, but he was accused of several offenses including resisting arrest and possession of marijuana.

Other officers tore the woman's car interior up and removed a child safety seat, but they apparently found nothing illegal and allegedly stole a power saw from the car.

Avoiding Trouble

Drivers are cautioned that their behavior after being pulled over for traffic violations can help avert similar scenarios. Like the woman in this case, they should pull over and be cooperative. Police are allowed to search a car during a routine stop only if they have a valid reason. If an occupant of the car appears to be trying to hide something, that could be reason enough. Seeing a marijuana joint or beer can in plain view in the car is also the kind of thing that can justify searching the car and its occupants.

Drivers and passengers should stay in the car unless the police officer orders them to get out, so as not to give the officer any reason to believe there is any threat of violence. In conversing with police, car occupants will do well to remain calm, avoid volunteering information and let the police do the talking.

Anyone who is arrested or searched during a traffic stop should consult a criminal defense attorney. It is important to document police actions that could be a violation of civil rights, and an attorney's advice is essential in such situations.