When you're out on the road, a law enforcement officer is not permitted to pull you over without a justified reason—what's legally known as “reasonable cause.” Much like our protection from unwarranted searches and seizures in our homes, we also have the right to be free from unreasonable stops while driving.
According to California legislation, a police officer must possess reasonable cause—also known as reasonable suspicion—that you've committed a traffic violation or another offense prior to halting your vehicle. As any DUI defense lawyer could elucidate, if an officer stops you for an unrelated reason—such as racial profiling—then the stop might be deemed illegal. If you are facing DUI charges, contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 for a free legal consultation.
Reasonable Cause in DUI Cases
For DUI incidents, law enforcement officers require reasonable cause to suspect that you are driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. This doesn't mean that the officer must personally witness you getting into your car after observing you consume alcohol. Rather, this reasonable cause can be predicated on behaviors like lane weaving, driving below the speed limit, or disobeying traffic signals.
Consider a hypothetical scenario where you're driving home from a barbecue at a friend's house. You consumed a couple of beers, but you're not inebriated—you also ate a substantial meal, and the beers were consumed over several hours. You stop at a sign and make a right turn. Suddenly, you see flashing lights in your rear-view mirror and a police officer stops you under suspicion of DUI. The officer claims you didn't signal your turn. Does that constitute reasonable cause for a DUI stop?
While neglecting to signal a turn can be a traffic violation under California law, it's generally not viewed as indicative of impaired driving. If your driving behavior was otherwise normal, as any sober individual would drive in similar circumstances, then it's likely the officer didn't have reasonable cause to stop you.
Illegal Stop Remedies: A DUI Defense Attorney's Perspective
So, what recourse do you have if an officer pulled you over unlawfully? If the stop was illegal, your lawyer might be able to file a Motion to Suppress. This legal document, submitted to the court, requests the judge to discard the evidence against you. In essence, if the prosecution fails to demonstrate reasonable cause for your traffic stop, the stop is deemed illegal, and all evidence obtained as a consequence of the stop is inadmissible. Under such circumstances, the charges against you might be dismissed.
At Law Office of Michael L. Fell, our expertise lies in defending clients charged with DUIs in California. Get in touch with our firm today at (949) 585-9055 or email us to arrange a complimentary initial consultation with a DUI defense attorney.