Let’s talk about why you are pulled over for a traffic stop.

Every DUI case begins with a traffic stop. My strong suspicion is that law enforcement looks for reasons to pull you over at night. Once they pull you over for a traffic violation, they want to check if you have been drinking. The Wyoming Supreme Court is clear: if law enforcement observes a bona fide traffic violation, they are allowed to pull you over even if the real purpose of the traffic stop is to do a DUI investigation.

So be advised. You may be pulled over for violations that seem small—or wouldn’t be an issue back home.

common reasons for a traffic stop:

Rental car lights

Lots of people visit Teton County on vacation. You fly into the airport and rent a car, or take a shuttle to one of the rental car companies in town.

Unfortunately, however, the way headlights and taillights work on rental cars makes no sense. It’s possible to turn the damn things off. Folks assume that the headlights are set to turn on when it’s dark out. That’s not always the case. Sometimes they don’t turn on. In town, where we have overhead street lights on the main roads, many people don’t realize that their headlights are off. Same with taillights. Those don’t always turn on either.

White light over the license plate

Bet you didn’t know about this one. You’re required to have a white light illuminate the license plate. That’s Wyoming Statute § 31-5-913(b). One of the rangers in Grand Teton National Park really likes to pull people over for this one.

Speeding

Our nighttime speed limits are low. On the Village Road, it’s 35 mph for most of the way to Teton Village. On Highway 22, it’s 45 miles per hour. In the National Park, it’s also 45 mph. Almost everywhere else has higher speed limits. Here, we have low speed limits at night because of the wildlife.

Failure to signal

Yup, if you fail to signal at 2:00 a.m., you’ll get pulled over. It doesn’t matter that no one else is on the road.

Fail to come to a complete stop

Same as above. If you’re at one of the four-way-stop intersections in town and fail to come to a complete stop, they will pull you over. Interestingly, I think some of these are bad stops. I watch a fair amount of dashcam footage. It’s not uncommon for an officer to claim that the driver failed to stop, even when you see the brake lights come on and the suspension rock as the car stops. What else? Sometimes that same officer rolls through the stop himself.

Lane violations

You are required to maintain your lane. However, an officer shouldn’t pull you over for “weaving within your lane.” Every time I see that in a police report, I perk up and watch the video. Wyoming Statute § 31-5-209 requires you drive your vehicle “as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane.” This does not require perfection. Out-of-state cases applying a similar statute hold that a brief incursion over the fog line is not sufficient reason to pull you over.

Following too close

Sometimes you’ll see following too close as a reason for a traffic stop. This is another one where the dashcam footage may show something different.