Traffic Stops from Soup to Nuts

Happy new year! It’s great to be back at work after a relaxing vacation.

I’ve written before about traffic stops. Recently, I returned to the subject and completed a pretty detailed primer on traffic stops and the Fourth Amendment. The paper, which is available here, treats traffic stops chronologically. First it addresses when a traffic stop may lawfully be made; then it discusses investigative activities during the stop; and finally it summarizes the law regarding the termination of traffic stops. The organization was inspired in part by a worthwhile law review article on traffic stops: Wayne R. LaFave, The “Routine Traffic Stop” From Start to Finish: Too Much “Routine,” Not Enough Fourth Amendment, 10 Mich. L. Rev. 1843 (2004). As the title suggests, Professor LaFave’s article leans toward the defense side of things, but it would be a good read for anyone involved with the criminal justice system.

Anyhow, I hope that my paper is useful. I like to think of it as a soup to nuts guide to the law of traffic stops. (As an aside, I just learned the etymology of the phrase “soup to nuts.” If you’re not already familiar with it, it is discussed here.)

1 thought on “Traffic Stops from Soup to Nuts”

  1. Good information, Jeff. For more information on traffic and other warrantless stops and searches, your readers might also be interested in Chapter 15 of the North Carolina Defender Manual, which contains a five-step approach, with supporting case law, for analyzing warrantless stops and searches. The chapter can be found at (Or, go to and click on reference manuals, then Defender Manual, then Volume 1, Pretrial.)


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