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Mr. Lofton
Mr. Lofton, Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
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Experience:  25 years experience
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this is an exert from NOLOS law guide. if this is ...

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this is an exert from NOLOS' law guide. if this is true cops can arrest you for any traffic violation and perform an inventory/searchof your car?11. Can the police make a warrantless
arrest for an offense that is
punishable only by a small fine?
yes. if a police officer has probable cause to
believe that an offense has been committed,
the officer can make an arrest even if the
crime is a very minor one that is punishable
only by a small fine (Atwater v. Lago Vista,
u.S. Sup. ct. 2001). as a practical matter,
police officers rarely make arrests in these
situations. however, in the Supreme court's
opinion, a rule making the validity of an arrest
depend on the seriousness of an offense
would be too difficult for police officers to
follow because they would have to know the
punishment for every criminal offense.
Case Example: officer buckle spots Whip
lash driving without a seat belt. in the state
where the offense occurs, driving without a
seat belt is an offense that can be punished
only with a small fine. Whip cannot be punished
with jail time even if he is found guilty
of the offense.
Question: can officer buckle arrest Whip
and take him to jail?
Answer: yes. because officer buckle has
probable cause to believe that Whip committed
an offense, the officer can arrest him
even though the offense is a minor one that
doesn't carry jail time.

The SUpreme Court's decision in Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318, 121 S.Ct. 1536, 149 L.Ed.2d 549 (2001), holds only that the US Constitution does not prohibit an arrest for a seat belt violation.

Police officers can arrest for those minor violations where the local state law specifically allows them to make an arrest, e.g., driving without a license or driving without insurance on the car. If they do not have the authorization of their own state and local laws, then they cannot do it!

All the best,

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