Were You Illegally Pulled Over When You Got Your DUI?
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution makes it illegal for law enforcement to carry out unreasonable searches and seizures. Because of this, police officers have to follow specific rules when they pull over cars and stop drivers. An officer cannot pull over a car simply because they have a hunch or a bad feeling that something illegal is taking place, instead, they must have witnessed something that gives them reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is occurring.
What gives an officer reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle?
When a person gets a DUI, the initial stop is often the result of a minor traffic infraction. For instance, if you failed to use your turn signal, or were driving above the speed limit, you could legally be pulled over by a police officer. While these infractions themselves might lead to just a traffic ticket, if you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you could be facing much more serious charges.
Can an officer who pulled me over for a traffic violation automatically investigate me for a DUI?
After you have been legally pulled over by an officer, that officer will potentially ask you if you have been drinking. If you reply that you have, then even if you maintain that it was only a small amount of alcohol, or that you drank it a long time ago, you have given the officer reasonable suspicion to start an investigation into whether you committed a DUI. If you reply that you were not drinking, but the officer observes that you smell like alcohol, are slurring your speech, or have an open bottle of beer in your cup holder, the officer now has the right to start the investigation into a DUI as well.
Can the officer arrest me with just reasonable suspicion of a DUI?
The required standard for arresting an individual is higher than for investigating them for a DUI. While you may be pulled over on reasonable suspicion, the officer must have probable cause to arrest you. If you were asked to complete a Field Sobriety Test and failed, or if you had obvious and distinct signs of being inebriated, then the officer could arrest you. If, on the other hand, the officer arrested you without being able to articulate clear facts for why he or she thought you were intoxicated, then the arrest was likely improper.
What happens if the stop or arrest was illegal?
When an officer of the law violates the Fourth Amendment, the evidence collected as a result of that violation becomes suppressed and cannot be used to convict the suspected person of a crime. Thus, if you were driving perfectly well, and pulled over without cause, then the evidence that officer found after pulling you over could not be used against you. If you were pulled over for failing to use your turn signal, and the officer arrested you for a DUI because it was Saturday night and you were dressed like you had been to a party without any facts that specifically indicated that you had been drinking, the arrest would be unlawful, and even if you tested above .08% at the police station, this evidence could be suppressed.
If you are facing charges for a DUI, you should speak with an experienced attorney. The attorneys at Milligan, Beswick, Levine, & Knox are here to serve as your advocate, and to protect your rights. Contact us today at 909-798-3300 for a free consultation.