Attacking Probable Cause in a Los Angeles DUI Case

If you have been stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, there are certain things you need to be aware of. In order for an officer to arrest you for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or to even stop and question you regarding possible intoxication, an officer has to have probable cause. Probable cause means that the officer must have a valid, legal reason to stop you before questioning you or checking for observation.

There are only two exceptions in which an officer does not need probable cause to question you regarding intoxication; when they are conducting a DUI checkpoint, and when they are doing a welfare stop.

This probable cause requirement is an important element to a DUI case, because if officers have not met their burden of probable cause, then the case may be reduced or even dismissed. A Los Angeles DUI Lawyer has extensive experience with DUI cases, and can review the facts of the case in detail. A thorough analysis gives the lawyer an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the case and allows them to prepare the best possible argument for their client.

Let’s consider a few examples to understand the element of probable cause.

Donna is driving home from a friend’s birthday party. She has had a few beers and is feeling some of the effects of the alcohol. She does not believe that she is too intoxicated to drive. As she is driving home, she makes a right turn at a traffic light when the light is red, without stopping. An officer pulls her over for having failed to stop at a red light. In this case, the officer’s probable cause is that Donna did not follow a traffic law, so he had a legal reason to pull her over. After he pulls her over, he can then question Donna about intoxication if he feels there is reasonable cause to do so.

Now let’s consider another version of the facts. Donna is driving home, and right as she exits, there is a checkpoint set up by officers. She continues through the checkpoint. When she reaches the officer, the officer asks her if she has been drinking, and continues to question her regarding intoxication. In this situation, there was no reason to stop Donna, nor was there a reason to question her other than the fact that she voluntarily stopped at a checkpoint. This is an exception. Officers do not need a legal reason to have stopped Donna, but can question her regarding intoxication anyways.

Now let’s say that Donna is driving home and her car starts to make a noise so she pulls over to the side of the road. Her emergency hazards are on, and her hood is open. She cannot figure out what is wrong with her car. An officer driving by stops and asks Donna if she is okay. This is a welfare check. Upon speaking to Donna as to whether she is ok or not, the officer may smell alcohol and begin to question Donna about intoxication. He does not have a valid, legal reason to question her, but this is another exception. The officer can legally question Donna if he is conducting a welfare check.

If you believe there may be an issue with probable cause in your case, do not hesitate to contact a DUI specialist as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer will question the facts supporting the officer’s claim for probable cause, this could lead to a reduction of your case and even a dismissal!