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Ask A Trooper: What is probable cause to pull someone over?

Question: If I'm driving a friend's car whose license is suspended, if the officer runs the plates and it comes back to my friend, can he pull me over just because the registered owner's license is suspended? Is that probable cause to stop me? My license is valid. Thanks.

Answer: While on patrol, we are looking for many types of violations in an attempt to educate, and to enforce Minnesota state laws.

I routinely run/check vehicle license plates for many different reasons. Some of them include:

• Unreadable tabs on the license plate due to it being covered by debris or snow.

• To verify the plates matches the vehicle.

• To verify the driver/registered owner has a valid driver's license.

When we run or enter a vehicle license plate, we typically get back the vehicle information (Make, model, year, and color), current registration status, registered owner driving status and a current warrant status. We also get an alert if the vehicle and plates are stolen, along with other officer safety alerts.

Law enforcement is required to have reasonable suspicion to pull you over when operating a motor vehicle. For example, if the registered owner has a revoked, suspended, or cancelled driver's license, or has an active arrest warrant, we will need to have reasonable suspicion that the registered owner is the person operating that vehicle or is an occupant with an active warrant. This is accomplished by the officer knowing that person and/or looking at the owner's physical description with the height, weight, eye color, age, and if they are female or male. If the officer has reasonable suspicion that the owner is the driver and they do not have a valid driver's license, we are allowed to make a legal traffic stop on that vehicle and take enforcement action.

A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow — Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at, jesse.grabow@state.mn.us).

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