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Common Police Officer Mistakes
Here’s a great article by Todd Spodek, a top rated NYC criminal attorney. During any DUI arrest, it is possible for police officers to make mistakes. To better protect your rights, you should be made aware of these common mistakes. It happens far too often that drivers are punished for mistakes they did not make. The H&M Law Firm wants to make sure that you are aware of the most common mistakes a police officer can make while conducting a DUI arrest. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the following 15 potential mistakes.
1. Making a stop founded completely on an anonymous 911 call To pull over a driver based solely on a 911 tip requires specific facts to be known about the caller. Regardless, the officer needs to have observed valid reasons to stop a moving automobile apart from the 911 call. The call could have come from a vindictive relation of the driver without particular information about the caller. This could include an angry friend, relative, or driver suffering from road rage.
2. Following a driver to their residence without probable cause or permission The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects your place of residence from unwarranted entry. Your home is a sacred place and forced entry is illegal. If you are lawfully home, the officer must first obtain a warrant for entry from a judge, or receive permission from you to come into the residence.
3. Using the statements of the driver as sole basis for arrest It is imperative that the officer has personal knowledge of the case, or independent corroboration of your statements prior to an arrest. This is true especially in accident case, but this is also common in DUI cases. Without independent evidence of the elements of the case before the accident, no conviction can be made in most cases.
4. Keeping a driver detained longer than necessary It is true that detaining a driver in a “traffic detention” is allowed to enforce traffic laws, but it is illegal for an officer to detain a person for an excessive period of time without reasonable suspicion of a crime have been committed.
5. Stopping a driver based on a “hunch” There is no such thing as a “hunch” in our field; a police officer must have reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed or recently committed to legally stop a driver. If the officer does not have specific facts to articulate to the court to support the suspicion then the stop, the arrest and all evidence is inadmissible in court.
6. Stopping a vehicle for only driving too slow or too fast Ensuring the safety of the public on the streets, for both drivers and pedestrians, is why traffic laws are implemented. Speed limits help ensure the safety of the streets. Though, driving either too slow or too fast can be dangerous, there needs to be additional evidence the driver was either imprudent or unreasonable for the officer to stop the vehicle.
7. Stopping a car for one lane weaving We all understand that it is reasonable to weave within your lane to avoid debris, potholes and other hazards to safely drive to your destination. It is important for drivers to remain in their lane for safety according to the law, though a minor swerve does not necessarily imply a drunk driver. A good DUI defense takes into account a scene investigation, which includes video surveillance of the driving situation.
8. Mistaking a traffic violation It is the job of police officers to uphold the law. They are required to thoroughly know the laws they enforce and it is illegal for a driver to be stopped or arrested for when the driver did not violate any law.
9. Stopping a car for conflicting traffic signs State traffic laws include the regulation of all traffic signs. Any sign not complying with regulations cannot be used against a driver to enforce a law.
10. Failing to follow breath test regulations Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is important evidence in any DUI case. California law governs the collection of both blood and breath samples for BAC evidence ina DUI prosecution. Test results will not be able to be used in court if all state procedures are not strictly followed.
11. Stopping at an inappropriate roadblock It has been made known that DUI roadblocks can violate the Constitution for their interference with lawful traffic. All DUI checkpoints must follow exact procedures to be valid and legal.
12. Stopping for driver’s license and registration Making a stop to simply check for a driver’s license and registration is not a valid reason. Before lawfully stopping any driver, an officer needs to have specific articulate facts of a crime being committed.
13. Failing to follow police officer DWI training The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed the exercises police officers administer on the road. The NHTSA sponsors training for these exercises. If, for any reason, the officer does not follow the administrative procedures for these exercises correctly in the field, then any evidence the exercises offer for intoxication is compromised.
14. Being unprepared for hearings Driver’s license hearings or suppression hearings can determine what evidence can be used against a driver during a trial. Sometimes the officer can underestimate the importance of these hearing and come inadequately prepared to be a witness in court. An experienced trial attorney sees this as an opportunity to defeat the prosecution and make sure the case never goes to trial.
15. Arresting a driver who is not intoxicated It is possible that sometimes an officer may make poor decisions in a situation. Some DUI arrests are made without proper support when a driver is stopped and questioned. Arresting a driver on false suspicion, or mere speculation can lead to serious consequences for the officer making the arrest. It is important for all drivers to be aware of their rights. The list above will help you to know what mistakes to look out for when dealing with police officers. Feel free to contact the lawyers at the H&M Law Firm with any questions about DUI law or a specific case.