There are numerous defenses against DUI charges, including challenging breath test results and alleging errors in field sobriety testing. But one possible challenge that is often overlooked is to contest the stop itself.
Before a police officer can pull you over and initiate a traffic stop, he or she must have reasonable suspicion that a crime is being (or has been) committed, a traffic violation has occurred or there is something wrong with the vehicle that violates local codes (such as a non-working headlight). Police don’t have to suspect drunk driving at first, but they also can’t initiate a traffic stop without some valid reason.
If defense attorneys challenge the stop in court and the officer cannot cite a valid reason for it, any evidence obtained during the stop can be suppressed, essentially nullifying the case. Police officers are often given a lot of latitude when it comes to justifying stops, but a recent case shows that there are limits.
The original traffic stop occurred in November 2017 in Nevada. When all was said and done, the officer learned that the driver was a felon in possession of a firearm and had what seemed to be methamphetamine in his trunk. However, this evidence was thrown out because an appeals court recently ruled that the traffic stop and a subsequent search of the vehicle were illegal.
Here are some of the ridiculous reasons the officer gave to justify the stop and the subsequent search:
- The driver and his passenger were traveling in a Honda, and there had allegedly been a “crime trend” of stealing Hondas in the area of late
- When the officer looked at the passenger (the driver’s girlfriend), she “quickly” looked away from him
- The passenger had been “moving a lot”
- The driver was “sweating more than normal for the current temperature.”
There were numerous other violations that occurred after this, including an illegal search of the car and the unnecessary impounding of the vehicle. Thankfully, a lower court judge and a three-judge appellate panel ruled that the criminal evidence obtained needed to be thrown out due to the unjustifiable traffic stop, vehicle search and impoundment of the car.
If you’ve been arrested for drunk driving or any other crime related to your vehicle, the stop and procedures after the stop may not have been legal. Please discuss the details of your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.