Can a cop pull you over in a parking lot? The police are allowed to execute traffic stops on streets and highways. However, this is not always the case on private property such as a parking lot.
Think about it, police do run license plates at parking lots, sometimes in search of stolen vehicles or other causes. Does this then mean they can pull you over while in your parked car?
Here is an interesting story:
Some years ago, Thomas Siebert’s wife got tired of him hanging around the house 24/7. She encouraged him to resign and get a part-time job.
He took a job at a local mall in Texas, working as an armed overnight security officer. He was friends with the local police officers who were all aware that he was a retired LAPD sergeant.
He worked here a couple of years until one morning at about 01:00 Am, 3 patrol units chased a vehicle from the next city onto the mall’s parking lot. They made “high-risk” traffic or felony stop.
Siebert stayed in the security vehicle about 50 yards away. 2-3 minutes later, 2 police vehicles arrived at the scene from the local department.
After the suspect was arrested, handcuffed, and placed in the police vehicle, Siebert approached the arresting officer, questioning him about the situation. However, the officer cursed that it was none of his business.
Siebert put it nicely that it was his business since it is private property. And that even though a bad guy was chased onto the property, the officer is legally obligated to explain why they are on the property as he needs to also write an incident report.
Another sergeant from the local police department overheard and approached them just as the other officer cursed that he does not have to tell him anything. Siebert, now pissed, gives the officer 30 seconds to get off the property as their business is complete or be arrested for trespassing.
The officer laughs at Siebert until the local sergeant informs him that Siebert is a retired police sergeant from the LA department. He adds that Siebert can arrest him and will be backed up. The officer returns to his vehicle and leaves the property.
In most states, an officer can only conduct a police search on private property if:
- They are in hot pursuit.
- They are invited or have a written agreement with the property owner.
- They have a warrant.
Thus, to answer your question, a cop will only pull you over in a parking lot if you committed an offense on a public street but pulled onto private property.
Can a cop pull you over in a parking lot?
The answer originates from a question of jurisdiction. That said, the officer needs to be in their rightful jurisdiction. Otherwise, you can fight the ticket and win.
In some courts, private roads or parking lots are not considered a street or highways. As such, they are not under the jurisdiction of the local cops. The parking lot is not considered open to the public for vehicular traffic use.
The prosecution needs to prove that it was a parking lot open for use by the general public for the ticket to stand. Otherwise, the court can dismiss the charges, finding that the cop acted outside their jurisdiction.
Most parking lots even have tow notices, threatening non-residents who park in the area with towing. This is also proof that the parking lot is not for use by the general public, and so a cop pulling you over is not legal.
Where exceptions apply to the jurisdiction
The actions of the cop are justifiable for the following reasons:
A written agreement
There needs to be a written agreement between the local police and private property owner explicitly providing cops traffic control jurisdiction over the parking lot. This exemption only applies to traffic stops on private property.
The cop needs to have a warrant to detain, search or make lawful arrest on private property.
Cops can always investigate a crime on private property without a written agreement or a warrant. Suppose an officer can pull over a hit-and-run driver, someone with DUI, or engaged in hot pursuit. Their actions can be justified. However, they are obligated to explain why they had to come on the property to the property owner.
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If a cop pulls you over in a parking lot on a broken headlight, this is not a crime but a traffic stop on private property. The court will dismiss any citation issued for the broken light.
Get a lawyer
If a cop pulled you over in a private parking lot, a lawyer can help you have your ticket dismissed, or argue to reduce the offense. Contact a local attorney to see how you can win your case.