06 Oct 23

What if the Police Stopped Me Unlawfully, and I Got a DUI?

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Last Updated on: 28th October 2023, 10:21 pm

What if the Police Stopped Me Unlawfully, and I Got a DUI?

Getting pulled over and arrested for a DUI can be a scary and overwhelming experience. Many people feel confused about their rights and options if the traffic stop was unlawful. This article will walk through what to do if you were stopped without good cause and ended up charged with a DUI. We’ll cover the legal issues, potential defenses, and smart next steps to challenge the charges.

Was the Traffic Stop Legal in the First Place?

The first question is whether the traffic stop itself was justified and lawful. The police need “reasonable suspicion” that a traffic violation or crime occurred to pull you over. Common reasons given for a stop include speeding, illegal lane change, running a stop sign, or having a broken taillight. But the real reason could be something else, like the time of day or a bias against the driver.

If the stated reason for the stop doesn’t hold up, the traffic stop was illegal. Any evidence found as a result, like signs of intoxication, may be excluded in court under the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine. This prevents police from relying on unlawfully obtained evidence.

Fighting the Basis for the Traffic Stop

One legal defense is to challenge the grounds for the traffic stop. For example, if the officer says you were “weaving” but the dashcam video shows you weren’t, the stop was unlawful. Your lawyer can file a “motion to suppress” the evidence from the invalid stop.

The officer may also exaggerate minor issues like a broken taillight to justify the real reason for stopping you. They know once you’re pulled over, signs of intoxication can be used to arrest you for DUI. That’s why it’s critical to analyze whether the stop itself was justified.

Questioning the Officer’s Observations

After being stopped, the officer will look for signs you’re under the influence, like slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or smelling of alcohol. Field sobriety tests may be conducted roadside. Your lawyer can scrutinize the officer’s observations and methods to find inconsistencies or lack of probable cause.

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For example, your speech may have sounded slurred because you were tired, not drunk. Or the officer didn’t conduct all the standardized field sobriety tests according to protocol. Mistakes in their process can help invalidate the DUI arrest.

Challenging the Blood or Breath Test Results

Chemical testing shows your actual blood alcohol content (BAC). But breathalyzers aren’t foolproof, and blood draws could be mishandled. Your lawyer can question the reliability of the devices used and procedures followed.

For example, were the breathalyzer machines properly calibrated and maintained? Was your blood drawn timely and by a qualified person? Any doubt cast on the accuracy of BAC testing could lead to exclusion of the results.

Using a Duress Defense

A creative legal defense is that you only drove under duress. For example, you had to rush someone to the ER or escape harm. A duress defense argues you shouldn’t be punished for driving drunk because you had no reasonable alternative.

While this defense is controversial and rarely used successfully, it illustrates the range of arguments your lawyer might make. The key is undermining the lawfulness of the stop and subsequent probable cause for the DUI.

Negotiating a Plea Deal or Reduced Charges

Rather than fully dismissing the DUI, your attorney may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor for a plea deal. This could involve pleading guilty to reckless driving instead of DUI. Or you could plead to a wet reckless, which is essentially a reduced DUI charge.

This strategy avoids the risk of losing at trial. The penalties are also less severe than a DUI conviction. But you still end up with a misdemeanor on your record.

Going to Trial to Fight the Charges

If you have a strong case, your attorney may recommend going to trial to beat the DUI allegation. By using legal defenses to undermine the traffic stop, arrest, and BAC testing, you could be acquitted. However, there’s always uncertainty in leaving your fate up to a judge or jury.

If convicted at trial, the penalties are harsher than a plea deal. But being found not guilty means no criminal record and avoiding fines, classes, and license suspension. It’s a risk-benefit analysis to discuss in-depth with your lawyer.

Using Legal Options to Protect Your Rights

Being stopped without good cause and arrested for DUI can make you feel powerless. But knowledge of your rights and legal defenses can empower you to fight the charges. Don’t hesitate to explore options with a skilled DUI attorney. The unlawful stop may provide openings to suppress evidence and beat the allegations. With persistence and the right legal strategy, justice can still prevail.