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Exceptions to the Probable Cause Requirement in a Los Angeles DUI Case

  • September 1, 2017

    A police officer cannot legally pull you over in California without first having probable cause. In most cases, the officer can state that he or she saw you driving in an erratic manner or spotted you breaking the law. If a police officer pulls you over on suspicion of driving under the influence, the prosecution will need to build a case that includes all the evidence necessary to prove your guilt. The prosecution will also need to prove in court that there is no reasonable doubt to your guilt.

    What this means for you is that the prosecution will need to present proof that you used some type of substance before driving, which can include prescription drugs, illegal drugs and/or alcohol. The prosecution must also prove that the officer had reasonable cause to stop your vehicle. Most officers use the California Vehicle Code and point to a moving violation that you committed while behind the wheel.

    One example of this is someone who fails to stop at a stop sign at an intersection. As soon as that driver passes through the sign without stopping, the officer has probable cause to stop the vehicle. The officer can then cite the driver for any other violations committed such as not wearing a seat belt or talking on a cell phone. That officer can also request that the driver submit to a field sobriety test because of the presence of alcohol bottles inside the car or the smell of alcohol on the driver.

    Depending on the circumstances surrounding your arrest, you and your Los Angeles attorney may be able to prove that the officer did not have probable cause when stopping you. This often occurs when the officer has a suspicion but cannot determine a reason for pulling over the driver. The officer may pull you over and ask for proof of insurance and your car’s registration before stating that he or she thinks you have a headlight that is out and asking you if you had anything to drink that night.

    Police officers cannot legally stop you, detain you or ask you questions about your drinking habits without some type of probable cause. If the officer did not give you a specific reason why he or she stopped you, your lawyer can argue in court that the officer did not have probable cause. This may lead to the judge deciding that there was no reason to stop you and let you walk away from the charge.

    The exception to the rule is when police officers setup a checkpoint. Checkpoints allow officers to stop vehicles at random and check for drunk drivers. These programs help save lives and keep drunk drivers off the street. You’ll often find checkpoints setup around major holidays like New Year’s Eve and Halloween. Officers working on the scene can stop any vehicle they want and ask the driver to submit to a field sobriety test. Those officers do not need to have any type of probable cause to pull your car over, and the court can convict you of a DUI charged based on what happens at a checkpoint.

    When you receive a DUI charge because your blood alcohol content level was too high when stopped by officers working at a checkpoint, you cannot claim that the officers did not have probable cause to stop you. You do, however, have the chance to make this claim with all other stops. Even if you had a higher than normal BAC at a checkpoint, you can still argue that the officer used malfunctioning or faulty equipment that led to your arrest. Los Angeles criminal lawyers can find other arguments that will work with your case too.

    With all other DUI cases, the officer must have some probable cause for stopping you or pulling over your vehicle and include that cause in the police report. Those reasons can include driving over the speed limit, running a red light or driving with a broken headlight or taillight. Los Angeles DUI lawyers provide their clients with tips on what constitutes probable cause and what they will need to bring to court with them. If you want to know more about probable cause and how it relates to your case, you should talk to a DUI lawyer.

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