Search and seizure issues go hand in hand with California DUI cases because a lot of times the police — in addition to trying to get somebody for a DUI — get them to take a breath test or have them do field sobriety tests, the police want to take it one step further and get into their car and search them.
They're also going to do what's called a “pat-down” search when the person gets out of the car. They're going to check them for any weapons for paraphernalia to make sure that the officers are safe.
Motion to Suppress Evidence in DUI Cases
Search and seizure issues are important in DUI cases because sometimes they can be used to suppress evidence that the prosecutors are trying to use against a particular defendant. I've seen a lot of cases where somebody is just busted for a DUI; they get arrested.
The police decide to search the car because they're going to impound the car as part of the DUI arrest so they get to inventory everything in the car. They'll usually do it right there at the scene.
They'll check everywhere and if they find any guns they'll charge the person with possession of a gun.
If they find any drugs, they'll charge a person with possession or possession for sale of drugs, depending on exactly how much they find and any other illegal activity they find inside the car will certainly try to be used against the person.
The issues becomes, are the police allowed to search somebody's car just because they pull them over and suspect that they're DUI? The answer is no.
If the person doesn't give consent and if they don't see anything in plain sight that they identify as contraband, then they don't have a legal right to search the car.
It doesn't mean that they don't do it anyways. I see them do it all the time. Then the defense has to file a Motion to Suppress anything they find and argue that it was an illegal search.
So, if you've been arrested and are charged with a DUI and in conjunction with that DUI, they searched your vehicle illegally and found other things, you may have an argument to get rid of whatever it is they found in the car.
Unlawful Police Stop in California
In order to attack the DUI, the defense attorney is going to have to claim that the stop was illegal. They can't just stop people for no reason.
They have to have a justifiable reason — a traffic violation — or something else they see that gives them the ability to stop an individual.
If the stop is illegal in a DUI case, you might be able to take the DUI out because the defense attorney can make the argument that if the stop was illegal, anything that flowed from the stop should not be able to be used against a defendant in a criminal case.
That would include the person's breath or blood result. That would include their field sobriety test results, anything they found in the car.
That would include any statements the person made or any other evidence that they seized as a result of the illegal stop.
There's all sorts of different issues that can be brought to bear in a DUI search and seizure illegal stop situation. You just have to have the right attorney that can exploit some of the weaknesses in the prosecutor's case and that can exploit some investigative issues related to the police in a DUI case.
Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense firm located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436.
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