DUI and The Vehicle Stop

  • May 25, 2017

    Whether you’ve been out at the bars, or you’re just coming home from work in the early morning, it doesn’t take much of a reason for a police officer to pull you over just to see what you’re doing on the road at that hour. You might think that he or she needs probable cause to make that traffic stop, but probable cause isn’t defined in the Fourth Amendment. That task was left to the courts.

    Probable cause vs. reasonable suspicion
    Probable cause is specifically referred to in the Fourth Amendment. Courts have held that it involves specific articulable facts that lead a police officer to reasonably believe that a person committed or is committing a crime. It’s what’s required for a police officer to obtain a search or arrest warrant from a judge. Courts have defined a reasonable suspicion as something less than probable cause. A reasonable suspicion involves an assessment of facts, each of which when added up, might constitute a legal basis for stopping a driver. Think of that in the context of somebody driving a vehicle that fits the description of a getaway car involved in a robbery 15 minutes earlier. A Los Angeles DUI attorney might also compare that to somebody who weaves within their own lane of traffic at 2:15 a.m. after the bars close.

    After the stop
    When a vehicle is “lit up” and comes to a stop, the officer will speak with the driver and look for signs of driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of the two. The first things that the officer will look for are bloodshot eyes, slurred speech or the odor of an alcoholic beverage. If the driver exhibits any of those red flags of impairment or intoxication, the DUI investigation is out of the starting gate. That’s when the officer will try to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest. If the investigation results in probable cause to believe that a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a DUI arrest is made.

    Establishing probable cause
    Any number of factors might establish probable cause for a DUI arrest. Along with bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage, the investigating officer might ask the driver to perform a series of standard field sobriety tests. Those include the:

    Horizontal gaze nystagmus test
    Walking a straight line for 10 steps and returning test
    One-legged stand test
    A portable blood alcohol breath test

    The officer will subjectively evaluate the driver’s performance of these tests. If in the opinion of the investigating officer, the driver failed any one of the field sobriety tests, the officer might have probable cause for a DUI arrest. California law doesn’t require a driver to take any field sobriety tests at all. If a driver has been drinking before a DUI stop, it’s his or her own choice on whether to give prosecutors additional evidence to try and obtain a conviction with.

    If you’ve been charged with a Los Angeles DUI, contact us right away after your arrest. It’s entirely possible that the arresting officer had no reasonable suspicion that you were driving under the influence. He or she might have simply been fishing for DUI suspects after the bars closed. A motion to quash your arrest and suppress evidence illegally seized might be in order.

    Both prosecutors and judges know and respect us. We’re highly regarded Los Angeles DUI lawyers. Contact us right away after any DUI arrest for a free consultation and case evaluation.

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