Just about every single person who drives a car will one day go through the experience of being followed by a police officer. As long as you're following the posted speed limit, you have a current driver's license, your plates/tabs are up to date, you aren't driving carelessly/recklessly, and you aren't under the influence, there's a good chance you don't really have much to worry about.

Unsplash - Andrea Ferrario
Unsplash - Andrea Ferrario

Why Would A Police Officer Follow You?

There are plenty of reasons a police officer might follow you for a certain amount of time. They might be asking dispatch to run the license plates on your vehicle, they might've received a call about a suspicious car that looks like yours, you could be driving erratically, or they simply might have to go in the same direction you're going to get to their destination. There's a pretty big list of reasons why an officer might be traveling behind you and most of the time, they are just trying to do their job like you and me.

As long as you're following the law, you shouldn't have much to worry about. Now, if a cop is following you for 10/15 minutes or for 5+ miles, you might be wondering what the deal is. Is there a legal time limit or a certain amount of miles a cop can follow you?

How Long Can A Police Officer Follow You?

If you're being followed by a cop for an amount of time or distance you feel is longer than normal, is there some kind of law or code that should prevent an officer from doing this?

After doing some online digging, I did not find a specific code or law that speaks to this. What I did find was a lawyer out of Cedar Rapids who answered the question for us. According to David Cmelik Law

An Iowa law enforcement officer can follow you for as long as their supervisors allow. Usually, that means that they can follow you as long as they have nothing else to do or they have not come to the end of their jurisdiction. This is the purpose of your license plates, to provide the officers with identifying information so that they can follow you and, potentially, conduct a traffic stop.

David Cmelik Law also mentions that just because an officer is "outside of their jurisdiction" doesn't necessarily mean they can't arrest someone. If a police officer believes you're driving impaired, they can cross county lines to pull you over. Officers from other jurisdictions can be called in for assistance in certain scenarios as well. For example; a high-speed chase or events with large crowds. If you're obeying all of the rules that come with driving, most of the time, a police officer will stop following you once you reach the county line.

What If...?

It's not always easy to tell if the car behind you is a real police officer or not, especially if it is an unmarked police car. If at any point you're concerned that an unmarked car is following you, for what feels like a strange amount of time, or they are trying to pull you over, it is well within your right to call 911.

After calling 911, be ready to provide your name, location, make and model of your car, and if possible, the make and model of the unmarked car behind you. Sadly, this is a very real situation where people have pulled over for what they believed was a real police officer, only to find themselves in danger.

Stay safe Iowa and use your blinkers!

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