Law enforcement officers cannot pull you over for a DUI investigation on a hunch. They must have reasonable suspicion for doing so. This means that they must see something in your driving behavior to warrant a stop. Unfortunately, not all law enforcement officers take this into account.
When law enforcement fails to follow proper protocol for a DUI stop, you may have grounds upon which to pursue a remedy like filing a motion to suppress. And if a stop is deemed unlawful, any evidence recovered during the stop may be treated as inadmissible during your trial.
Examples of reasonable suspicion (and a lack of it)
The law protects you from unreasonable search and seizure. In the context of drunk driving, the police must have substantial evidence that you are committing a traffic offense. For instance, the police, while sitting in their patrol car, cannot pull you over just because they’ve seen you walk out of a bar before getting into your car. This is neither unlawful nor indicative that you have been drinking.
However, if an officer follows you after you leave the bar and notices that you are hugging the centerline, weaving in and out of your lane, braking erratically or disregarding basic traffic rules, they will have reasonable suspicion to stop you.
What happens if an officer does not have suspicion for a stop?
In law, there is a principle known as the “fruit of the poisonous tree.” Per this principle, if anything unlawful happened at any stage of your DUI case (including before the stop), anything that follows will be considered tainted and, thus, will likely be disregarded. In other words, if the DUI stop is deemed unlawful, any evidence obtained thereafter, including any field sobriety and chemical tests, may be rendered inadmissible. And without access to solid evidence, the prosecution might decide to reduce or drop your DUI charges.
Safeguarding your interests
If you are charged with drunk driving, do not lose hope even when the police have evidence against you. If the stop was unlawful, then you may have a strong defense against the DUI charges you’re facing.