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Whisper stops are illegal in New Hampshire

On Behalf of | Mar 26, 2020 | Criminal Defense

Did you ever hear of a “whisper” stop? Most people haven’t — unless they happen to be officers of the law. Essentially it means that one law enforcement entity whispers in the ear of another that there’s someone on the road that may (or may not) be involved in illegal activity. The first agency (which is usually a federal one) doesn’t have a legal reason to stop the suspect’s car — but they put out the word and tell patrol officers to watch for any excuse to pull that car over and initiate a search.

Unsurprisingly, they’re very successful. Police officers who are looking for a reason to pull over a vehicle seldom fail to find one, whether the driver actually commits an actual traffic violation or not. An officer can, after all, make a traffic stop simply because they decided a driver was driving erratically, moving too slowly or just made a wide turn. Once a driver is stopped, the officer can then use the stop as a pretext for starting an investigation based on whatever other evidence they can find — including just asking their destination and declaring it one known to involve drug trafficking.

Two cases involving whisper stops in New Hampshire have recently ended after a federal judge declared the searches — and all the evidence that was obtained in them — illegal. Both stops were in March of 2018, but the recent ruling has prompted the New Hampshire division of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to file a Right to Know request that aims to uncover similar official dealings.

It’s a constant battle to defend against official overreaches and “dirty tricks” played by investigative agencies who are determined to make their case against someone — even if they have to break the law to do it. Incidents like this are a sobering reminder that it takes an aggressive defense to stand up against drug trafficking charges in New Hampshire.



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