Can Police Write a Traffic Ticket Outside Their Jurisdiction?

Police officers sometimes make traffic stops outside of their jurisdiction. In that situation, clients ask if the officer can still give them a traffic ticket outside their jurisdiction or be charged with some other criminal offense like DWI? The short answer is, yes, under certain circumstances. Like any legal situation, the answer depends on several factors. A Missouri law enforcement officer can leave his or her jurisdiction and still act as a police officer only while in “fresh pursuit.”

Missouri law regarding fresh pursuit is very restrictive. Under Section 544.157 RSMo., for an officer to make an arrest or write a traffic ticket outside their jurisdiction, the prosecutor must show:

1. Fresh pursuit was initiated inside the officer’s jurisdiction;

2. The officer witnessed a criminal act inside the officer’s jurisdiction. (This can be as minor as a speeding violation);

3. The accused must be attempting to escape or at least have knowledge of pursuit. In 2007, the Missouri Court of Appeals decided State vs. Renfrow, in which the court noted that “there must be proof that the individual being sought is attempting to escape to avoid arrest or, at least, the individual must know that he is being pursued, which “may more easily be shown if the police utilize sirens and/or emergency lights in pursuance of a suspect.”;

4. The officer must pursue the accused without delay. The statute says that “Fresh pursuit … shall imply instant pursuit”;

5. The pursuit must be continuous and uninterrupted; and

6. There must be a relation in time between the alleged criminal act inside the jurisdiction, beginning of the pursuit and apprehension of the accused.

A violation of the fresh pursuit doctrine only invalidates evidence obtained after the law enforcement officer leaves his or her jurisdiction. Evidence obtained by the officer while still in his jurisdiction such as speeding could still be admissible in court. Therefore, an officer could pursue someone and simply write a traffic ticket outside their jurisdiction as long as he or she witnessed the defendant speeding inside their jurisdiction.

Some criminal charges are almost always based on evidence obtained after a traffic stop, such as DWI, drug possession, drug paraphernalia, driving while suspended, and other offenses. If a law enforcement officer conducted a stop outside his jurisdiction resulting in these types of charges a criminal defense attorney would likely file a motion to suppress any evidence obtained after the traffic stop. If you have been stopped, and you believe the officer stopped you outside of his or her jurisdiction, you need to make sure and tell your attorney the information that supports your position.

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