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Common Police Errors in a DUI Traffic Stop

  • By: Ron Hedding
  • Published: November 12, 2019

When it comes to these DUI stops the police make errors all of the time.  The problem is trying to be able to catch them.  The way that’s done is through body cam video or dash cam video or in independent witness that sees what they’re doing.

Obviously, the defendants themselves can try to challenge the police to prove that they committed errors, but a lot of times it comes down to your word against their word and if you’re severely intoxicated your credibility is not as good as the police who are coming in stone cold sober when it comes to your case.

Unlawful Police Traffic Stop

One of the first errors that the police make that I can definitely see and that I’ve challenged throughout the years is that they illegally stop people.  So, they’re stopping people in the middle of the night on a Friday or Saturday night who they assume are probably coming from a bar, but they’re not allowed to do that.

They can’t just randomly stop people unless they set-up a valid DUI checkpoint.  They have to come up with some reason or excuse to stop you.  If they see a moving violation, then obviously they’re able to stop you and they’re fine.

But, if they’re just randomly stopping people out late at night, that would be an error on their part and everything that is found after that can’t be used against a defendant.

Asking Questions To Incite Incriminating Statements

Of course, the difficult thing is trying to prove that and sometimes there’s evidence to prove it and sometimes there’s not.  The next error that I think the police make related to DUI enforcement is, instead of just giving the person a ticket because they’re usually stopping them because they were speeding or made an illegal lane change or were driving without their lights on or whatever excuse they come up with, just give the person a ticket and let them move on. Common Police Errors in a California DUI Traffic Stop

But what they do is, they’re looking to catch the person for a DUI so they’re asking them a bunch of questions to try to get them to incriminate themselves.

At this point Miranda doesn’t apply yet because you’re not in custody.  In order for your Miranda rights to apply, you have to be in custody.  Now, there are circumstances where the police grab you and won’t let you go and it’s the same as being in custody, and obviously, your defense attorney would be able to make that argument on your behalf and try to challenge any statements that you make.

But when you look at what police are doing, somehow they’re getting inside cars, searching them, conducting a full DUI investigation, searching the person, getting them out of the car, making them do field sobriety tests, and all they did was pull them over because they were weaving for example.

So, how do not have to just write a ticket a move on?  Most of the time they do, but there’s other things that come into play.  For example, if they come up on you and your whole car reeks of marijuana, you’re just helping the police to be able to search the car.

You’re helping the police to be able to conduct a driving under the influence investigation.  If they come up and you start talking to them and saying a bunch of stuff and your breath smells like beer, again, you’re just helping them.  Then they’re going to be able to get you out of the car and ask you a bunch of questions.

Probably the biggest and easiest trick the police have is that they just simply say, have you had any alcohol to drink tonight?  And if you say yes, it’s on.  You’re getting out of the car.  You’re done.

So, if you say no, I haven’t had anything to drink.  If you’re going to write me a ticket, do it.  I want to get on my way, and now they continue to do other things that are not permissible, this is another error that the police make and sometimes your DUI attorney can capitalize on that.

Proving You Were Actually Driving Vehicle

Other errors that I see is they don’t pinpoint when you were driving the car.  Sometimes the police don’t catch you driving.  They come upon you.  You’re already out of the car.

So, if they don’t pinpoint when you were driving the car, they’re going to have a bad problem in the future trying to get you for a DUI because their expert who is evaluating your blood or breath that the eventually get, is going to need that information — when you were driving — to be able to say what your blood alcohol level was at the time of driving versus when the police took your blood or breath.  So, this is another potential error in a DUI case that the police make all the time and a smart DUI defense attorney can capitalize on this.

Waiting Too Long To Take Breath or Blood Tests

Another thing that I see as an error is that they wait too long to take your blood or breath.  Once you get passed three hours — and there are some cases like that — their expert is going to have a very bad problem proving what your blood alcohol level was.

Title XVII starts to apply where this breath or blood test three hours later really can’t be used against you in your DUI case and without it a lot of times they have a real hard time proving the case against you.

So, there’s a number of different errors that the police make.  They obviously aren’t all applicable in every DUI arrest.  So, don’t be fooled by these people who are telling you a whole host or a whole list of issues, because a lot of times those issues just simply don’t apply to you.

You want to get a seasoned DUI defense attorney.  Tell them what happened in your case.  Be honest about it and then let them decide what DUI issues might apply to your case.

What’s also is necessary for them is, they’re going to need the police report which they’ll typically get at the time of the arraignment in order to really look at the other side of the equation, the other puzzle pieces.

That combined with your statement — they’re experience — they’re going to be able to put together a strategy that’s going to work best for you, make the best sense for you so you can get the best result in your DUI case.

Ron Hedding

About the Author Named Top Los Angeles DUI Defence Attorney by LA Times and named one of the Top 100 DUI Defence attorneys in California by the National Trial Lawyers Association. I'm the attorney other lawyers hire to defend them.