I've been doing this for 30 years, defending people for California Vehicle Code 23152 VC DUI cases in Los Angeles and surrounding cities. I thought it would be nice to give you a breakdown of what is supposed to happen if you were pulled over for a DUI.
I do this knowing that most people will be coming on here after the DUI arrest so they can get an idea of whether anything was done wrong about their particular situation. So, the first thing the police need to pull someone over for a DUI is to have probable cause to make the pullover.
In other words, they have to be in a position to say we're pulling you over because you made some traffic violation such as weaving across lanes, driving at night without headlights, running a stop sign or red light, and near-miss accident.
They could have told you they pulled you over because you were speeding or swerving. Many different things can give them reason and legitimacy to pull somebody over, but they can't just pull you over for no reason.
In the context of our criminal justice system, probable cause is any evidence making a reasonable person believe a crime could have been committed or when proof of an offense is present in the place to be searched. I've had the police pull people over for paper plates because they're near a liquor store. After all, it's late at night, and they think they might have been drinking.
Those are all illegitimate reasons to pull somebody over, and if you can prove that that's why they pulled you over, you're in a position to try to attack the pullover. If you can attack the pullover and be successful, now you're in a place to up-end the entire case.
Anything they found after the illegal pullover would be the fruit of the poisonous tree and couldn't be used against you. Without that breath test, the field sobriety test, they have a real problem proving the case against you, and they'll likely have to dismiss it. Our Los Angeles DUI defense lawyers will explain further below.
Are the Police Required to Read Miranda Rights After a DUI Traffic Stop?
Not necessarily. Other things to be concerned about, and I see people being concerned about, are their Miranda rights regarding a pullover. The short answer related to Miranda and pullovers is the police do not have to read you your Miranda right despite what people think. Most of the time, in DUI cases:
- They don't need a statement from you to prove the case;
- They need to get your blood or your breath and see that you are a .08 or greater;
- They need to prove that you were legally stopped;
- They need to show that you couldn't pass the field sobriety tests.
That has nothing to do with Miranda, which can come in later when they ask you questions to incriminate you further. If they don't read you your Miranda rights and you're in custody, your lawyer could argue that none of those statements should be able to be used against you.
That doesn't win the case for you. You still have the blood result. You still have why they pulled you over, your field sobriety test, etc.
Why Are Police Asking You to Take Field Sobriety Tests?
Let's talk about the field sobriety test. That's another thing that's going to happen related to your pullover. People ask, why are they making me do all of these tests? Because they have to prove that you couldn't lawfully operate a motor vehicle because you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs or a combination of both.
Part of proving that is making you do specific tests that can determine whether or not you could safely operate a motor vehicle. They know your DUI defense attorney will say you could safely operate a car.
What are you talking about? They will say no; we conducted many tests on the guy who couldn't safely operate a motor vehicle. So, the field sobriety tests are another thing that will happen.
Sometimes people have medical issues, and you should certainly tell the police, if you didn't already, that you have medical problems, and therefore, you can't perform some of these tests they're trying to make you do. Standard field sobriety tests include:
- One-leg stand,
- Finger count,
- Rhomberg balance,
- Alphabet test,
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus.
I feel that a lot of the tests they're trying to make you do, you couldn't pass them if you are not intoxicated. Some of them are ridiculous. So, that's something that a good DUI defense attorney can attack.
Why Does Police Ask So Many Questions After a DUI Pullover?
Another thing they're going to do when they're out there is, they're going to ask you what you were doing. If you're not in custody, they can ask all of those questions. They don't have to read you your Miranda rights. Where are you coming from?
They'll try to smell your breath, and then they'll want you to do the field sobriety test. The bottom line is, you can be polite to the police and say, I didn't do anything wrong. Could you give me a ticket and let me go?
If they can smell alcohol on your breath or if you admit that you had been drinking, you've got a real problem because they're going to do all of their tests and try to arrest you.
People somehow think that if they're honest with the police and say yes, I had a couple of drinks, and that's going to end the inquiry, the answer is no, it's not going to end the investigation.
That will trigger the start of the inquiry because they know people lie about how much they've had to drink. So, never admit that you had anything to drink. Be polite but be short and to the point.
DUI Breath or Blood Test Option
They're also going to take your driver’s license away if they believe you've been driving under the influence of alcohol. They're going to give you the choice of taking a blood or breath test.
If they don't do that, that's another area we can attack. Ultimately, most people chose the breath test. They're going to bring you into the station and have you blow into a machine. The machine has to be calibrated and operating correctly.
That's another thing we check if it looks like they have improperly indicated that you are a .08 or greater when you've only had one drink, for example. There are all sorts of things that can come up in DUI cases.
Developing the Best DUI Defense Strategy
Hopefully, this anatomy of the pullover gives you a feel for some of the issues that can be used to help you. Still, nothing beats having a criminal defense attorney who's got experience like I do who can evaluate you and your situation and do everything possible to bring you the best result.
Procedural rules in California criminal cases give a DUI defendant a way to enforce those rights and defeat the charges. An experienced lawyer would file motions well before trial to exclude evidence gained from an illegal traffic stop by law enforcement.
If the judge decides to grant the motion and the prosecutor doesn't have enough other evidence to support the Vehicle Code 23152 VC charges, defense counsel would usually move for dismissal of the driving under the influence charges.
The bottom line is, if you've been pulled over for a DUI, you've come to the right place. Pick up the phone. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I stand at the ready to use my 30 years of experience to help you. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County, and we offer a free case consultation by phone, or you can fill out the contact form.