DUI and Your 4th Amendment Rights

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The Fourth Amendment safeguards people from unauthorized searches, seizures, and arrests and necessitates a court-issued warrant even in situations when there is probable cause. 

However, there is a gap in the law that allows a warrantless stop if the officer thinks the motorist or the public are in danger. Cops don’t have a clear-cut definition of what constitutes “reasonably suspicious” behavior, so there is some ambiguity that gives them room to exercise their best judgment in the current situation. 

Both the stop itself and any evidence gathered, as a result, are contestable if it was conducted improperly. A DUI lawyer may choose to use the Fourth Amendment as a defense and may win the case by doing so. A DUI lawyer can look at the facts of the case and help you decide.

In What Circumstances Does a Police Officer Not Need a Warrant?

The following situations would be an exception to the warrant requirement in the context of a traffic stop: 

  • Searches involving items in plain view inside a vehicle
  • Searches that are due to a lawful arrest
  • Searches to which proper consent is given
  • Situations with “exigent circumstances” that make loss of evidence likely if a warrant is sought

Although there may be restrictions on the locations or contents of a vehicle, officers may search in particular circumstances. However, having the right to search a vehicle does not give them carte blanche. 

Your DUI attorney may be able to argue your Fourth Amendment rights were violated with the right evidence.

DUI Charges and Fourth Amendment Violations

The court should throw out any evidence gathered during a DUI traffic stop if the officer who pulled you over did not have probable cause to do so or if there were not exigent circumstances. Evidence that has been suppressed cannot be used against you in court.

If there is no proof, the prosecutor may decide there is no case and drop the charges. If a police officer illegally searches and seizes your property, you have the right to file a Bivens lawsuit against them for violating your Fourth Amendment rights.

If you were arrested for driving under the influence and you believe your Fourth Amendment rights were violated, you should consult an attorney.

I Got a DUI After I Was Pulled Over for Unrelated Reasons. Is That Legal?

It could be. Consider the conditions under which your stop occurred. The police officer may have suspected DUI but had no evidence to back it up in cases when the initial infraction was something minor, such as Irregular Lane Use. 

After stopping you, they gathered further evidence that may be used against you in a DUI case. In many of these situations, not even the ILU can be enforced. 

After making an initial stop, police can observe further evidence, such as glassy eyes, sweating, and slurred speech which are all signs of alcohol intoxication. On the other hand, if they can prove they had a valid reason to pull you over, a DUI charge would not constitute a violation of the 4th Amendment rights

There Are Exceptions Involving Automobile Searches and Your Fourth Amendment Rights

A reasonable expectation of privacy forms the basis for some of the 4th Amendment’s safeguards. Because a car is primarily used for transportation and travels on public roadways, the Supreme Court determined that drivers had a lower expectation of privacy while driving.

The car exemption permits brief traffic stops where there is a good basis to believe that there has been a traffic infraction or criminal conduct. If they have grounds to suspect the person may be armed or violent, the police may also be allowed to pat down drivers or passengers.

If they follow specified protocols, the police may often inventory the contents of an impounded car without obtaining a search warrant.

Do DUI Checkpoints Violate My 4th Amendment Rights?

DUI checkpoints provide the authorities the opportunity to do a quick safety inspection without a good basis to suspect any illegal behavior. According to the Supreme Court, sobriety checkpoints are legal as long as they adhere to specific rules and do not violate the Fourth Amendment. 

However, some states now forbid sobriety checks and have determined that these stops are against their state constitutions. Police can check for a driver’s license, the usage of a seatbelt, proof of insurance, and registration at DUI checkpoints as a matter of administration.

On the other hand, if police have reason to believe the driver is under the influence, they can remove the car from the checkpoint line and investigate the situation further.

Seizure and Search as Part of a Traffic Stop

To conduct a traffic stop, the police must have cause, but even a minor traffic infraction can be sufficient. For DUI charges, the police may stop a car for driving dangerously, speeding, lack of nighttime headlights, expired registration, or almost any other actionable cause.

A traffic stop can be made at any time as long as it is appropriate; there is no set time limit. The average length of a traffic stop is between 15 and 20 minutes. The driver may be unjustly held if the police do not allow the driver to go after issuing a ticket or concluding the traffic stop.

To compel the motorist to allow a car search, the police may threaten to hold him or her until a search dog shows up. If you believe that your Fourth Amendment rights were violated during a traffic stop, speak to a criminal defense attorney.

Seek Legal Counsel if You Suspect a Violation of Your 4th Amendment Rights Led to a DUI Arrest

Officers generate reports at the conclusion of each event, allowing them to compile the report utilizing the conclusive evidence available. The truth can be uncovered by using body cameras and dash cams, among other means.

If you are facing DUI accusations and you think that the officer used inappropriate police protocol to improperly gather evidence, it is crucial that you discuss your concerns with a seasoned and aggressive DUI attorney

Christian Schwaner may be able to help you preserve your reputation and freedom.

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