Articles Posted in Probable Cause

If you have been stopped for a Los Angeles DUI, you should know that there are several different legal obstacles officers must cross before they are able to question you regarding intoxication. What do I mean by that? Let’s take it step by step so that you can better understand your rights.

Before an officer can ever ask you to pull over, they must have a valid reason for doing so. This reason is generally a lawful traffic stop. This can be running a red light, speeding, weaving, illegal U-turn, etc. But the bottom line is that an officer cannot ask you to pull over based on whim or their instinct alone. You must have violated traffic law to be stopped in the first place.

There are two exceptions to this; a welfare check, and a DUI checkpoint. A valid reason is not required when you are pulled over at the side of the road. Officers are required to stop and see if you are ok, and if you need help. This is called a welfare check. Officers also do not need a reason to stop at a DUI checkpoint. You are required to stop. However, if you do not want to drive through the checkpoint, you are allowed to turn around the other way. This cannot be held against you.

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.

What does reasonable cause have to do with a DUI arrest? It has a lot to do with it, and in fact, you cannot have one without the other. It is a crucial part of a DUI arrest and can lead to a dismissal of a DUI, if it is appropriate.

When an officer first asks a driver to pull over, he must have reasonable cause to do so. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but in a majority of cases there must be reasonable cause for the officer to ask a driver to pull over. If there is no reasonable cause, then this could lead to a dismissal of the case, as any evidence that is not properly gathered is inadmissible.

Let’s consider an example to get a good understanding of how reasonable cause is applied to a DUI arrest.

As discussed in the previous blog, you will be asked certain questions by an officer during a routine DUI stop. An officer needs probable cause for intoxication before he can arrest you for suspicion of driving under the influence. Admissions by the driver and observations made by an officer are just two of the ways an officer can suspect that a person is intoxicated. These will give the officer the probable cause needed to be arrested. These were discussed in the previous blog, Probable Cause During a Los Angeles DUI Stop – Part One. In this second part we discuss additional ways an officer can obtain probable cause.

  1. Field Sobriety Tests

If an officer feels that it is necessary, they can ask that you submit to a field sobriety test. There are several different test that can be administered.

You will be asked certain questions by an officer during a routine DUI stop. An officer needs probable cause for intoxication before he can arrest you for suspicion of driving under the influence. There are several different ways to obtain probable cause.

  1. Admissions

Oftentimes, to be compliant, drivers will admit to having been drinking. These statements can be used against you. You have the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and not say anything that could incriminate you. If you do offer an admission, it can later be used as proof of your intoxication, or in the very least of you having consumed alcoholic beverages. Lets consider an example.

Before a person can be stopped and asked to submit to an alcohol screening test, there are many procedures an officer must follow. These procedures are crucial and put into place so that a person’s constitutional rights are not violated. An officer cannot arbitrarily stop a driver and ask him or her to take an alcohol drug test.

Before an officer can even stop someone and question them regarding alcohol or drug use, they must have probable cause. Probable cause may be achieved in several different way.

  1. Traffic violation

An officer must meet certain criteria before they are able to pull someone over for suspicion of driving under the influence, and before they are able to administer and alcohol tests. To better understand the process, lets outline an analyze an example.

David is driving home from a friend’s birthday party. At the party he has had two beers. He feels fine to drive and believes he has no alcohol in his blood. When David is driving home, he thinks he can catch the yellow light, but instead, when he crosses the crosswalk, the light is red. Officers immediately follow him and ask him to pull over.

Officers need a reason to stop David, referred to as probable cause. They cannot arbitrarily pull someone over. The driver must have a traffic violation, or be missing a headlight, or even have an expired license plate. Additionally, officers can pull over and question someone as part of a Samaritan stop. This is a stop where someone is pulled over at the side of the road, and officers stop to see if everything is ok.

A driver cannot be pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence without a valid reason. The driver must be committing something illegal, whether it is swerving, weaving, or failing to follow traffic signals. Only after the officer has a valid reason can the driver be stopped.

After the driver is stopped with a valid reason, the officer must then have reasonable suspicion to ask the person to step out of the car and undergo alcohol screening. The alcohol screening may be done through the use of a breathalyzer as well as other tests.

An officer can establish reasonable suspicion in several different ways. The most difficult way is through subjective observation. If the officer states in his report that the driver smelled of alcohol, was slurring and had red, watery eyes then he has reason to believe that the driver is under the influence of alcohol. He may then proceed to conduct alcohol screening tests having established reasonable suspicion.

Many of our clients mistakenly believe that a DUI charge is based on their admission of having been drinking. Although their admissions contribute to a huge part of prosecution, a person may still be charged with a DUI, even when they have chosen to remain silent.

When an officer first chooses to have you pull over, he must have a reasonable cause for doing so. A majority of the time it is because the driver has committed a traffic violation. This can be anything from speeding, to and illegal U-turn. Regardless of the offense, it gives the officer grounds to pull you over.

In some situations, the driver may already be pulled over. For example, he may have started driving and felt that he was impaired so he has pulled over. Or there may be car trouble or an accident that has caused the driver to stop on the street or the highway. When a driver is already pulled over, the officer will conduct what is known as a welfare check. The driver does not have to have violated the traffic code, or committed any other offense for the officer to come check up on the driver.

Many of our clients are worried about the statements they make to an officer during a DUI stop. Generally the officer must have a reason to stop you while you are driving. This reason can be any violation of the vehicle code. For example,sif you are missing a license plate, your headlights are not on when they should be, or you are speeding, the officer has a right to pull you over and write you up for the violation.

In the process of pulling you over, if the officer suspects that you are intoxicated he may also ask you if you have been drinking, and if he has enough evidence to support a reasonable suspicion that you have, he or she has the right to ask you to submit to an alcohol screening test. However, the officer MUST have enough evidence to questions you for a DUI.

The officer can gather evidence based on observations. This would mean that if a person exhibits signs of intoxication and the officer reasonably feels there is a good chance the person is intoxicated, they can proceed with a DUI investigation. If the officer does not have enough evidence to support their suspicion of intoxication, the officer has no right to proceed with questioning regarding a DUI.