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What Can an Illegal Stop Get You in a DUI Situation?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Sep 30, 2022

This is a big question for many people because they feel like the police pull them over for no reason.  When somebody is driving their car on the street in California and not doing anything unlawful, the police can't legally pull them over during a traffic stop.

Police are required to have “probable cause” to pull them over, which is described as evidence that would make a reasonable person believe a crime may have been committed, or when evidence of a crime is present in the place to be searched.

Illegal Police Traffic Stop in California

In other words, probable cause gives law enforcement officers the legal authority to pull you over, such as speeding, running a red light, driving without headlights at night, weaving across lanes, reckless driving, or some other type of traffic law violation.

The evidence and arguments about whether police had reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop are relevant to the outcome of driving under the influence cases.

Reasonable suspicion matters because the exclusionary rule established in the Supreme Court case of Mapp v Ohio requires the courts to ban evidence police unlawfully gained in violation of Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

They end up with a DUI arrest, and now they've got a court appearance, and they're looking for an attorney, and they're hoping that attorney can figure out how to get rid of the DUI based on that illegal stop.

The answer to the questions is pretty simple.  What becomes more complicated is whether there was an illegal stop.  So, if you were illegally stopped in a DUI situation and the court finds it's an unlawful stop, what it can get you is a complete dismissal of the case.  Our Los Angeles DUI lawyers will review further below.

What Is the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree?

The reason is that the court can say, you illegally stopped this person, so anything you found in the car is what we call the fruit of the poisonous tree. 

You're not going to be able to stop somebody illegally and then get them for a DUI because you shouldn't have been able to talk to them or smell their breath.

Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

It would help if you weren't able to make them do field sobriety tests or make them take a chemical test because you illegally stopped them in the first place.  So, it can get you what you want.

The next question, of course, becomes what circumstances amount to an illegal stop because the police have many latitudes for stopping people. 

If you commit any traffic violation, they can stop you.  If your license plates are messed up, they can stop you.  If you have tinted windows, they can stop you. 

I can't tell you how many people make it easy for the police by having their license registration messed up or tinted windows. 

The police pull you over. You roll the window down.  They claim they smell alcohol, and that's the end of it. 

They've got the probable cause now to conduct a DUI investigation, and most times, if you've had alcohol, they're going to figure it out, and they're going to arrest you.

First, they have to show some traffic violation, or they have to offer some other reason.  Let's say they broadcast a Blue Chevy Malibu that was just involved in a robbery, and you drive by in a blue Chevy Malibu in the local areas where that robbery occurred. 

That may give them probable cause to stop.  They may be able to do that, even though you're the wrong person.                                     

Initial Meeting and Review of All the Details

So, it would help if you looked at the facts and circumstances surrounding your stop.  We have you come in.  We talk about it.  You give me all the details and realize that many times, it might be your word against the police because, unfortunately, the police sometimes lie about the reason for the stop. 

They could claim that someone was swerving; then how do you prove otherwise? Video evidence is used often, which we didn't have years ago – and I've been doing this for 30 years.  So, sometimes the police bodycam can assist. 

Usually not likely in a stop because they don't turn the bodycam on until they get out of the car and start to interact with you, and even if the bodycam is on, it's too low many times.

You can't see over the steering wheel to see what's going on out there.  But, I guess it's conceivable that there could be a circumstance for bodycam evidence to assist an illegal stop. 

But I think more realistic is if the police vehicle is equipped with video.  So, they're driving along.  They've got their video on.  They're claiming you made an illegal right turn and did not, which doesn't show on the video.

DUI Defense Attorneys Los Angeles

Now we're talking.  Now we've got a good argument.  Unfortunately, though, it seems that many times these guys have control over when that video goes on, and they're not going to say something inconsistent in the report if they can help it, with what eventually will show up on the video.

Although, I did have a case like that, where they claimed at a preliminary hearing that my client made an illegal right-hand turn, and that's why they pulled him over. 

They found a bunch of drugs in the car and got him for a DUI.  During the preliminary hearing, I asked why they didn't have a video on their vehicle because they claimed they didn't know when we originally asked for it. One of the detectives was stupid enough to say, oh no, we do have a video on our cars. 

So, I ended up stopping in the middle of the preliminary hearing.  They got the video, and it came back in a week.  I looked at the video, and my client did not make an illegal turn, and we ended up getting the case dismissed.  The judge granted my motion to suppress the evidence found in the car based on an unlawful stop. 

The police were not telling the truth about that right-hand turn. You have to look at the facts and circumstances of the case.  If you want to win it, you have to know what the search and seizure law is.  You've got to understand what it takes to find probable cause for a stop.

So, if you need the best, pick up the phone now and let me put my years of experience to work for you.  I've worked for the District Attorney's office as a superior court judge and for people like you since the early 1990s.

Pick up the phone now and ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, and we offer a free case review by phone or by filling out the contact form.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

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