Unlawful police stops occur when an officer pulls a driver over without any probable cause. In some cases, the driver can be arrested and charged with a DUI if the officer smells alcohol on their breath.
Unlawful police stops are not only illegal, they also violate the driver’s rights, which is why any driver who is charged with a DUI after being pulled over illegally should hire a DUI attorney to help them fight the charge.
For What Reasons Can A Police Officer Legally Pull A Driver Over?
The standard reasons that legally justify police officers pulling a driver over include:
• Braking erratically
• Changing lanes without signaling
• Driving without headlights on in the dark
• Ignoring a stop sign or traffic light
• Driving too slowly
Any of the violations mentioned above, as well as any other traffic violation not included in this list, give a police officer the authority to pull a driver over. If a driver does not demonstrate any of these behaviors and is pulled over by a police officer, the officer is violating the driver’s constitutional rights.
Understand Your Rights
Some officers knowingly disobey the law to arrest drivers who they believe are driving while intoxicated. One of the most common ways that officers unlawfully pull drivers over is by parking outside a nightclub or a bar and waiting until the business closes. Once the business is closed, the officers will follow any driver they feel is inebriated when leaving the bar and pull them over even if they did not commit any traffic violation. Since the driver was leaving an establishment that primarily sells alcohol, the officers believe there is a good chance the driver is intoxicated.
In the past, it was difficult to prove that a driver was unlawfully pulled over, making it hard to fight the charges. It also meant that the court would rely on the officer’s report of their recollection of the incident, and take the officer’s word over that of the driver.
In recent years, however, many police departments have equipped their squad cars with video recording devices designed to record traffic stops. The installation of video cameras in police cars makes it easier for drivers to challenge unlawful stops because they can request the video of the stop, which can help them prove their case. For example, a driver might have swerved to avoid debris on the road but was pulled over for driving erratically. Having access to the video from the stop will likely show other cars trying to avoid the debris and thus prove that they were unlawfully pulled over.
Can A Driver Get Charged With A DUI If They Are Under The Legal Limit?
Contrary to popular opinion, the answer is yes. Many drivers are pulled over every day on suspicion of driving while under the influence of alcohol, but in some cases, the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is actually under the legal limit. This generally happens when a breathalyzer isn’t correctly calibrated.
A breathalyzer is the most common tool police officers use to determine if a driver is intoxicated. The breathalyzer allows police officers to determine a driver’s BAC. In California, if a driver’s BAC is higher than the state’s threshold, which is 0.08, the driver is legally drunk and will be charged with a DUI.
The problem with the breathalyzer reading is that it is sometimes inaccurate. Like most states, California requires the police to calibrate their breathalyzers on a regular basis, but some officers don’t calibrate their breathalyzers regularly.
If a breathalyzer isn’t calibrated regularly, it may give a false result. This means that someone with a BAC of 0.05 could be arrested because the breathalyzer gave the arresting officer a 0.08 reading. An Orange County DUI attorney can assist if a driver believes that the breathalyzer used by an officer wasn’t accurately calibrated.
What Options Do Drivers Have If They Are Unlawfully Stopped And Charged With a DUI?
Some drivers who are unlawfully pulled over by police officers feel they can defend themselves, especially if they think that they weren’t over the legal limit when they were pulled over. However, these drivers actually decrease their chances of winning the case by representing themselves.
When it comes to the law, most people don’t know what their rights are, which is why the smartest thing they can do is to hire a DUI attorney. A DUI attorney will provide the driver with knowledge and expertise that can help them win the case. If a driver feels they were unlawfully stopped, the attorney can request that the police department provide video of the arrest, which will be used to prove that the stop was unlawful.
Plus, if the driver feels that they were not legally drunk when they were pulled over, their attorney can request the calibration records of the breathalyzer used to determine if the driver was over the legal limit.
If the attorney is successful in either proving the stop was unlawful or the driver was under the legal limit, the charges will be dismissed because the evidence can’t be used against the driver in court.
Of course, there is always the possibility that there are other factors surrounding a driver’s individual case that a trained DUI lawyer can use in their favor.
Are DUI Checkpoints Considered Unlawful Stops?
Some drivers that are pulled over at DUI checkpoints feel they were singled out by the police, which would constitute an illegal stop. In fact, the California Supreme Court ruled that DUI checkpoints are legal because the officers are stopping people at a predetermined rate.
The California Supreme Court believes that there is no risk of people being unlawfully singled out, which means a driver may be stopped at a DUI checkpoint even if they didn’t violate any traffic laws.
California drivers are unlawfully stopped by the police and charged with a DUI on a daily basis. Since many drivers don’t know their rights, they end up having to pay fines or go to jail in some instances when it could have been avoided.
To avoid losing your driving privileges or going to jail, drivers who feel they were unlawfully stopped by the police and were charged with a DUI should hire an attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Chad Maddox for a consultation today.