The Pretext Stop and Vehicle Equipment Violations
A police officer must have a reason for stopping your vehicle while you are driving. The standard is he or she must have “an articulable and reasonable suspicion” that there was some violation of law. Often, police will say they stopped you for some minor vehicle equipment violation, but in reality they stopped you because they suspected you may have been driving under the influence of alcohol. This is known as a pretext stop.
If your Orange County DUI attorney can successfully argue the police had no legal justification to stop you, any evidence gathered as a result of the stop may be excluded. However, different courts have ruled differently on what constitutes a legal stop where vehicle equipment issues are involved.
For instance, some courts have held that a stop was proper based merely upon a missing license plate light and another stop justified because the vehicle’s license plate was leaning against a tissue box on the rear window dash. These are perhaps minor violations, but they are violations nonetheless.
But what about where the police officer makes a mistake in his or her understanding of the law? Does a good faith mistake of law make an otherwise illegal stop legal?
Again, different courts have disagreed on that question. One court found that although an officer did not fully understand the laws as pertaining to tinted windows, since the suspect’s windows were, in fact, illegally tinted, the stop was justified. In a separate case, a court ruled a stop illegal because the officer failed to understand his state’s regulations on license plates.
A knowledgeable Orange County DUI attorney understands that the specific facts in your case may provide the basis to challenge the reason that law enforcement stopped you. If you are not already represented, please contact Mike Coffey for a free evaluation of your case.