Reasonable Suspicion of DUI Violation
DUI defense attorneysin Orange County know that there must be reasonable suspicion of unlawful conduct before a police officer can stop a motorist. There are different types of driving transgressions that may result in an officer’s reasonable suspicion of a DUI violation, and they vary greatly. These variations arise because 1) reasonable minds can and will disagree on what constitutes reasonable suspicion, 2) every case presents different facts, and 3) the statutes that make up what constitute traffic violations differ in different states.
When determining the lawfulness of a motor vehicle stop, the first question your Orange County DUI attorney should examine is whether or not the police officer personally observed some violation of the law.
Was a Traffic Violation Personally Observed?
While many incidents existin which a police officer does not have to actually observe a violation of the law in order to stop a motorist, the majority of drunk driving stops originate because the officer claims a traffic violation occurred in the officer’s presence.
The U.S. Supreme Court has found that stopping a vehicle for the singular purpose of conducting a license and registration check is not reasonable. In that particular case, the officer claimed he stopped the vehicle because he “saw the car in the area and wasn’t answering any complaints, so I decided to pull them off.” The Supreme Court found that this was not reasonable and delineated the following criterion for stopping a car:
Accordingly, we hold that except in those situations in which there is at least articulable and reasonable suspicion that a motorist is unlicensed or that an automobile is not registered or that either the vehicle or occupant is otherwise subject to seizure for violation of law, stopping an automobile and detaining the driver in order to check his driver’s license and the registration of the automobile are unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. [Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 663 (1979).]
The key phrase in this ruling is whether or not the police officer had an “articulable and reasonable suspicion” of unlawful activity. To stop a motorist, an officer need not have probable cause. The probable cause standard is that which is used to establish the propriety of an arrest – not that of a detention.
In trying to evaluate the lawfulness of a motor vehicle stop, the articulable and reasonable suspicion standard is an admittedly amorphous guidepost. Both police officers and DUI lawyersin Orange County have the same difficulty of determining what is “reasonable suspicion” of unlawful conduct. The principle difference between the officer’s and the lawyer’s determination lies in the fact that the officer has less time in the field to make the appropriate assessment than the lawyer has while in his or her office.
Even though it is fair to recognize that the officer must make a quick determination in the field based on the facts at hand, misapplying those facts will not make a DUI stop lawful. When your Orange County DUI defense lawyer believes there has been a misapplication of the facts, he or she will acknowledge to the court the sincere efforts made by the officer, but point out that the law must still be followed. Requiring that an officer have objectively reasonable suspicion of unlawful conduct prior to making an enforcement stop should not be abandoned by good faith in a warrantless detention.
If you have been charged with a DUI and would like to discuss your DUI case with a knowledgeable Orange County DUI defense lawyer, please call Coffey and Coffey at 800-706-7888.