In this article, Los Angeles DUI Defense Lawyer discusses Reasonable Suspicion to Stop a Car and Probable Cause for a DUI Arrest. Click on the links below to go directly to your topic of interest.
- What is Probable Cause
- Probable Cause to pull you over
- Probable Cause for DUI Arrest
- Difference between probable cause and reasonable suspicion
- What can I do if I was stopped or arrested for DUI without probable cause?
Probable cause is initial basis for police contact. Often, is is based on a believe that a crime has occured. It needs to exist for a police officer to make a warrantless arrest, a warrantless search, or to confiscate property because it proves that crime took place. In short, a “probable cause” or “reasonable suspicion” must exist before a police stop, arrest, or search or seizure takes place.
To prove a reasonable suspicion or probable cause, police need to show why they think you committed a crime. It can not be just a hunch because a case from the Supreme Court (Terry v. Ohio). But the crime can be minor and can be even an infraction, such is a traffic violation.
To pull over a driver for DUI, law enforcement, such as LAPD or California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer needs to have “reasonable suspicion” that a crime is or was occurring. Reasonable suspicion is similar to “probable cause”. U.S. Constitution’s 4th Amendment forbids unwarranted searches and seizures. Because of the 4th amendment, the police cannot stop your car without a good reason. Prior to initiating a traffic stop, the police must identify certain facts that caused him or her to conclude that crime, such as a DUI, was occurring. For example, excessive weaving on the freeway can be viewed as suspicion that a driver is DUI, justifying a DUI investigation.
This does not mean that the officer must know that the driver is DUI. Often, any traffic violation — speeding or a broken taillight is enough for a traffic stop. If the officer can point out a violation of a traffic law, reasonable suspicion to stop the car is there.
The next step of analysis is the probable cause – officer needs a warrant for evidence or an exception to a warrant. The most common exception for the warrant requirement is consent. That is, most people agree to be investigated and unfortunatelly voluntary provide officers with evidence of crime. There would be a lot less DUI prosecuctions if no one agreed to do field sobriety test, preliminary alcohol screening tests or other blood/breath testing.
After you are stopped (remember there must be reasonable suspicion for a stop), the police must have probable cause to start a DUI investigation. The smell of alcohol is often enough. If an officer smells alcohol, the chances are, you are getting arrested. The only way to avoid it is to provide an alcohol test with a hope tha the results are below .08 BAC. Often, during DUI investigaiton in Los Angeles, the police will ask you to submit to field sobriety tests. This might seem like a good idea, unforntally, most of the field sobriety tests are subjective and will result in an arrest.
During a DUI investigation in Los Angeles, the DUI investigating officer is also likely to do the following:
- Question you about your biographical information;
- Question you about where you coming from and where are you going;
- Question you about the amount you had to drink and to eat;
- Question you about any illnesses that can affect your driving;
- Question you if you are epileptic, diabetic, etc;
- Question if you are prescribed any medications;
- Ask you to do field sobriety tests (FST), such as:
- One Leg Stand;
- Walk and Turn Test;
- Rhomberg Balance;
- Finger to Nose Test;
- Ask you to submit to a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test with a handheld breathalyzer.
With every step of the DUI investigation—namely, the stop, then the detention/investigation, and then the arrest—comes a more elevated criterion for probable cause/reasonable suspicion. While it might be easy for a police officer to meet the reasonable suspicion criterion to stop your car, the level of proof to keep you in custody and investigate you for a DUI is a lot higher. For example, to arrest you for a DUI, the police need to give detailed articulable information that would result in a reasonable officer suspecting that you are violating California DUI laws. The officer’s belief can not subjective – he must objectively have reasons for a DUI investigation.
To stop a car, the police need reasonable suspicion. To search you or your car, the police need probable cause. This is because the expectation of privacy is less in the car.
Probable cause is “whether, given all the circumstances …., there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.” (Illinois v. Gates (1983) 462 U.S. 213).
Reasonable suspicion is a sensible supposition that a crime has been, is being, or will be perpetrated. It is a sensible certainty based on information or situations and is notified by the training and experience of a law enforcement officer. Reasonable suspicion is viewed as more than a supposition or instinct but less than probable cause.
The distinction between the two words is that probable cause indicates there is actual evidence of a crime while reasonable suspicion is susceptible to extensive clarification. Reasonable suspicion specifies that it seems that a crime has been perpetrated. The expression is frequently utilized to validate investigation into dubious conduct when a crime might have been perpetrated.
If California DUI defense attorney thinks that the DUI investigating officer did not have a reasonable suspicion or probable cause, he or she will request that the court throws out the case. Los Angeles DUI Attorney can do that by asking the court to suppress the unlawfully acquired evidence by filing a California Penal Code Section 1538.5 motion to suppress. A motion to suppress can be based on several differnet theories, such as the “fruit of the poisonous tree”. For example, any evidence received because of an unlawful stop, a DUI investigation or arrest—must be suppressed. When a judge suppresses the evidence, it cannot be used against you and can cause a dismissal because the prosecutor will not be able to prove a DUI without evidence of the crime.
A PC 1538.5 motion to suppress will result in a hearing that is called a “suppression, probable cause, or PC 1538.5 hearing.” If your California DUI defense lawyer can persuade the judge at this hearing probable cause did not exist either the stop, investigation/detention, or arrest, your DUI charges can be dismissed or reduced to another charge.
If you have any questions about your case, call Drunk Driving Defense Attorney directly. You will get a FREE DUI case review!
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