DUI traffic stops and your Fourth Amendment rights

We have previously written that drunk driving charges can be challenged if evidence may have been tainted, tests may have been administered incorrectly or the traffic stop was not legitimate. Today, we’ll discuss traffic stops in greater detail.

Most people don’t realize it, but an illegitimate traffic stop may be a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. The Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protects Americans from unreasonable search and seizure.

In order for a police officer to lawfully pull over a driver, he must suspect that the driver has broken the law. Moreover, this suspicion must be reasonable and explainable (in court). These requirements often fall under “probable cause.”

For instance, an officer may reasonably suspect that a driver is intoxicated if he observes erratic driving or weaving outside of the lane. He may also pull over a driver if their vehicle is in disrepair in such a way as to violate safety statutes (burnt-out headlights, etc).

A police officer does not have to suspect drunk driving when making the traffic stop. He may initiate it for other reasons. However, the traffic stop cannot be based on a “gut feeling” or anything else that is unreasonable or articulable.

If the officer cannot prove probable cause for the traffic stop, it may result in evidence being suppressed. Say, for instance, that an officer pulled you over and the stop resulted in a failed field sobriety test and a breathalyzer test. The DUI evidence obtained may not be usable if the officer did not have probable cause to pull you over in the first place.

Before you assume that your fate is sealed, it may be a good idea to discuss your DUI charges with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can examine your case and inform you of your rights and options.

Source: FindLaw Blotter, “DUI Arrests: 3 Constitutional Rights You Should Know,” Daniel Taylor, Sept. 18, 2014

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