DUI Defense – Challenging the Stop or Detention

There are many different ways to mount a thorough and vigorous defense when you choose a skilled California DUI attorney from Summit Defense.

California law relating to the lawfulness of an initial arrest is guided by the seminal United States Supreme Court case of Terry v. Ohio. This decision essentially held that the fourth amendment protects not only homes but people in their daily live. This obviously includes motorists. In addition, the court held that in order for evidence to be admissible in court, the initial detention or stop have be lawful or in the language of the fourth amendment “reasonable”. The question here is not the reading of the breathalyzer or blood test, or even the field sobriety test since the remedy for this violation of the fourth amendment is exclusion of evidence. For the most part, this is a fatal blow to a DUI case and the District Attorney will usually dismiss the case.

This unlawfulness can be determined in two ways: 1) if the officer initiated the stop with unfair pretext and 2) if there is evidence that the officer acted in a discriminatory manner. If a traffic stop conducted by law enforcement and subsequent arrest is deemed unlawful, the state’s case essentially evaporates. This is because under the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine, the state cannot use evidence gathered as a result of an unlawful stop. The way to bring this challenge to court is through a “motion to suppress evidence” (Penal Code §1538.5) filed by a California DUI attorney.

The question before the court in a penal code 1538 hearing is, whether the police department can point to some articulable facts that validate the initial stop. Since the burden is on the prosecution to establish a valid stop once a defense motion is made, the district attorney will initially establish the facts the led to the arrest. Counsel for defendant will than have an opportunity to cross examine the officer.

First, an officer of the law may determine that it is necessary to pull someone over because they believe that they have reasonable evidence to suggest that the person driving is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Common evidence includes swerving, recklessness, and running red lights or stop signs. Obviously, if a person is guilty of basic traffic violations, an officer has the right to pull them over. However, when a police officer initiates a traffic stop on the pretext of a broken tail light, for example, or “fuzzy dice” hanging from the mirror (causing, ostensibly, a barrier to the driver’s vision), then it is possible to prove that the officer in question had a premeditated intention of pulling over or arresting the driver. Simply proving that unfair or discriminatory pretext was used will not hold up in a court of law. It may be necessary to question the arresting officer. It is certain that their testimony will be important in proving that the initial stop, whether it resulted in a DUI arrest or not, was illegal to begin with.

Traffic stops on the basis of discrimination are illegal, yet incredibly common. Even if the individual driving happens to be intoxicated, if the pretext for their stop and seizure is illegal, the arrest can easily be challenged. If an officer is required to justify a DUI arrest, they will not be able to do so if they have pulled an individual over for “suspicious dress,” car model (or vehicle decoration), or on the basis of race. If you believe you’ve been the victim of discrimination, then challenge the stop with a renowned California DUI attorney from Summit Defense. We’ll work to prove that there was no probable cause for the stop, and then move on to challenge any further illegally obtained evidence (including your breath or blood results). Even though the laws are notoriously strict, there’s no reason to live with the burden of an unlawful California DUI. Attorney fees don’t have to break you at the bank. Get the defense you deserve at Summit Defense. You could be one phone call away from dismissal!

Frequently Asked Questions

What constitutes an illegal traffic stop?

A traffic stop is illegal if it is “unreasonable”. The Officer must articulate reasonable cause in order to stop a moving vehicle. Any traffic law violation would suffice. However, unfounded suspicion or pretext stops are usually considered unreasonable.

Do police need probable cause to pull you over?

The fourth amendment requires that any governmental search or seizure ( a stop is a seizure) must be supported by reasonable cause. If a traffic stop is not supported by reasonable cause, any evidence obtained as a result of the illegal stop will be excluded from evidence.

What are the legal requirements for police to justify an investigatory stop?

An investigatory stop must be supported by articulable facts that make the stop reasonable. It is illegal to stop a vehicle to conduct a general investigation or questioning.

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