One of the most common concerns individuals have after a DUI arrest is why the police stopped them in the first place. Generally, the police have to have probable cause to make a traffic stop. If they did not have probable cause, then the traffic stop may have been illegal and can be a defense to any criminal charges that followed.
If you have any questions about if your arrest was legal or if the police violated your rights during a DUI stop, talk to an experienced DUI defense lawyer about how to fight the DUI charges against you.
Can the police pull me over if I wasn't breaking any laws?
The police generally need “probable cause” to make a traffic stop. This does not mean they have to have evidence that you were breaking the law, but that the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the individual was involved in criminal activity. It could also be something as minor as a traffic violation.
People commit minor traffic violations all the time but most of the time it doesn't result in getting pulled over. In practice, this can mean that the police may be able to pull over just about any driver if they watch them long enough. Going over the speed limit, not signaling a lane change, or not giving a cyclist enough room can all be reasons to make a traffic stop.
Even infractions like expired registration, a broken taillight, illegal tinted windows, or a cracked windshield can give the police the reason they need to make a stop. The police often look for certain “minor” traffic violations as a way to stop a driver and investigate the driver to see if he or she may be driving under the influence.
For example, the police may be sitting in a parking lot on a Saturday night in an area where people go out drinking. A driver may forget to turn on the headlights before pulling out of the parking lot which can give the police a reason to stop the driver and look for signs of alcohol.
How could the police have suspected I was drinking when they pulled me over?
The police don't necessarily have to have probable cause of drunk driving when making a traffic stop. The police only have to have a reason to make the initial traffic stop. During the stop, the police may then suspect the driver is impaired because of:
- Smell of alcohol,
- Admitting to drinking,
- Open containers, or
- Slurred speech or blood-shot eyes.
The police may also have a reasonable suspicion that a driver is impaired even without any traffic violation. For example, if the police see someone stumbling out of a bar, have trouble putting keys in the door, or exhibit other possible signs of impairment, the police may be able to stop the suspect based on probable cause the driver is impaired by alcohol.
What happens if the police pull me over without probable cause?
If the police pull over a vehicle without a reasonable suspicion that the driver has committed any crime or traffic violation, that may be considered an illegal traffic stop. If the police violated the defendant's rights through an illegal stop, then any evidence gathered after that traffic stop may be able to be thrown out. However, there may be exceptions and you should talk to your DUI defense lawyers about the best defenses available in your case.
Is it legal to stop a driver during a DUI checkpoint?
Generally, police need probable cause to make a traffic stop. However, at a sobriety checkpoint, the police briefly stop random cars looking for impaired drivers or other violations. This may seem like it is an unconstitutional stop. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that DUI checkpoints are constitutional, as long as they meet certain requirements. An experienced attorney will review the checkpoint protocol, signage, methods and supervision to look for constitutional violations
Criminal Defense Attorney Defending Drivers Accused of DUI in the East Bay
East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of DUI experience and understands the ways that police and law enforcement bend the rules to make an arrest. Lynn Gorelick will investigate your case and identify all the ways to fight the charges against you for the greatest chance of success. Contact East Bay DUI lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.