Legal i

Police or traffic officers directions


If I have done nothing wrong, am I obliged to stop my vehicle if a police officer requires me to do so? I find random stops like these annoying and are a total interference with my liberty.


The police have powers to carry out searches, including vehicle searches and road checks, but these do not apply to minor road traffic offences. Your problem is that you would not know the reason the police were requiring you to stop until you comply. It is an offence to neglect or refuse to stop your vehicle when directed to do so by a constable or traffic officer engaged in regulating traffic on a road, even if the vehicle itself is not on the road. You are also obliged to stop your vehicle if so required by a constable in uniform. A constable in uniform may stop all vehicles selected by any criterion to check whether a person has committed, is about to commit or is a witness to an offence (other than a road traffic or vehicle excise offence).

Before a road check is carried out, authorisation must be recorded in writing with the specified details and, except in urgent cases, must be given by a superintendent or person of higher rank. He must have reasonable grounds for believing that the offence is one that can be tried in the Crown Court (i.e. a serious offence) and he must have reasonable grounds for suspecting that where an offender or escapee is being sought, he is in the locality. It is an offence to fail to stop for a road check as described above and, again, you cannot know at the point of being asked to stop whether or not the request was properly authorised for a proper purpose. It is also an offence to fail to comply with an order given by a constable in uniform to stop a motor vehicle that is moving where the constable has reasonable grounds for believing that the vehicle is being driven carelessly or inconsiderately and is causing or is likely to cause alarm, distress or annoyance to other members of the public.

Although it is no defence to a charge of failing to comply with a traffic sign that the driver did not see the sign, all of the reported cases before the courts where the motorist has established that he did not see the constable giving a direction, have been found in favour of the driver. The difference is that traffic signs are fixtures in places for all to see, but the signals of a constable, possibly in a busy street, will not always necessarily be noticed. Although traffic wardens are not constables, they are in law treated the same for the purposes of these offences.

In summary, if you are required to stop in circumstances outside of those described above, you might escape prosecution, but this is a risky line to take as you will never know the lawfulness of a direction until you stop.

Designed by solicitors, tested by barristers and available around the clock, Road Traffic Representation is an online legal system that allows people accused of a motoring offence to get free advice on how the law will be applied in their case, and referral to a telephone helpline and representation by a barrister in court if required. Practising solicitor Martin Langan spent two years designing the system and creating the data repository which allows the software to analyse road traffic offences with the same authority as a solicitor.

Twitter: martinlangan
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