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Might traffic stops go virtual?

Typically, after stopping a car, a police officer will get out of their vehicle, go over to the car and talk with the occupants about the reason for the stop. Might this fundamental aspect of traffic stops soon be changing? An app recently developed by students at the University of Florida raises this possibility.

The app is called Virtual Traffic Stop. The idea of the app is to allow the police officer who conducts a stop and the driver of the stopped car to talk to each other from within their own vehicles. The app is designed so that if both a police officer and a driver of a stopped vehicle have the app, the officer could get access to the driver’s information and speak to the driver over video through the app, thus not having to leave their squad car.

One wonders what kind of testing the app will see and whether this or other apps allowing for traffic stops to be done virtually will ever become widespread.

Purportedly, the primary aim of the app is to make traffic stops safer. There are a variety of safety concerns both police officers and drivers can have during traffic stops. The hope is that allowing police and drivers to speak to each other from their own vehicles could allay some of these concerns.

Of course, safety concerns are not the only thing that can come out of traffic stops. So too can significant legal issues. For example, things police see during traffic stops sometimes lead to a car’s driver (or other occupants of a car) facing criminal charges. Also, when a traffic stop does lead to criminal charges, issues can arise as to whether police properly respected a suspect’s rights during the course of the stop.

So, what evidence and actions come out of traffic stops can have significant criminal law implications. Given this, one wonders what impacts traffic stops largely going virtual would have on this front. Do you think it would lead to any major changes in the types of criminal law issues coming out of traffic stops?

What are your thoughts on the idea of traffic stops going virtual?

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