First off, the police are not allowed to just pull somebody over for no reason. We all know that’s what they’re doing out there. They’re waiting outside bars, clubs and various areas that they believe people will be drinking alcohol so they can pull them over and catch them. The key though, is to be able to catch the police in the act of just pulling somebody over for no reason, because that’s a violation of that individual’s Fourth Amendment right to not be pulled over for no reason.
So, it would be illegal for the police to pull somebody over for no reason, or just because they thought that that person’s a DUI, so I’m just going to go ahead and pull them over. That would subject anything that they found to being tossed out — the person’s blood, the person’s breath, any statements they made, any observations the police made — all of that would be thrown out because of the illegal pull over.
Now, what’s a lawful pull over? A lawful pull over is when the police observe somebody, for example, swerving all over the road. They could pull that person over and check to make sure the person is okay and check that person to see whether or not they might be driving under the influence of some alcohol or some other drug, and that would start a DUI investigation.
A lot of people ask, the police pulled me over for no reason. How do I prove it? They’re just saying it. It’s going to be my word against theirs. Fortunately — I’ve been doing this twenty-five years — so, it’s absolutely been difficult to catch the police in lies as it relates to this, but now new technology has come out that’s being used to do exactly that. For example, many of the police vehicles are equipped with dash cams, so if the police vehicle has a dash cam, we can request that and get the judge to order that and then we can look and see if you were really speeding, if you didn’t signal, if you were really swerving, and be able to challenge the police’s reason for pulling you over.
Also, another thing that’s happened is, a lot of times the police officers themselves are wearing body cams. So, if they’re claiming you are staggering around, your speech is slurred and it looks like you’re under the influence of alcohol, we can try to get that body cam to show that the police have embellished what is actually going on regarding you and your situation.
So, there’s a lot of different avenues out there to challenge the police’s reasoning for pulling you over. If the police see that you’re committing some sort of a traffic violation that would be a lawful reason to pull you over. They should just be pulling you over to give you a ticket or a warning for the traffic violation. But anybody who has ever been pulled over, especially at night on the weekend, knows that one of the first questions the police ask you in addition to, do you know why I pulled you over, is have you had anything to drink tonight? If you say that you’ve had something to drink — some sort of alcohol — then that’s it. You just started their DUI investigation for them because that starts to give them probable cause to check you out to make sure you’re okay. If you’re telling them that you’ve had alcohol and now you’re driving a car, they’re going to be able to do a full check on you. So, obviously, that’s not the best way to interact with the police if you want to avoid being investigated for a DUI.
Now, another trick I’m seeing them pull lately is, they’ll wait outside liquor stores to try to get people who are drinking and driving. They figure people who go into liquor stores may already be drinking and are just getting more alcohol for themselves. So, it would be unlawful for them just to pull you over just because you came out of a liquor store. That’s not good enough. They’re going to need to get some more details — like if you came staggering out of the liquor store like you were drunk and then you got in the car — that would be a lawful reason to pull somebody over. If after you got in your car and you started swerving all over the road, obviously they can pull you over. So, they need some sign or some indication that you’re drinking and driving.
The reality is that we know what they’re doing is, they’re just taking a scenario saying, it’s Saturday night. It’s midnight. This person’s out of the road. They probably had some drinks. But that’s not good enough for purposes of the law to pull somebody over. So, the key is, they have to try to add some extra thing in there to get you for a DUI in Los Angeles, so they’re adding in swerving or some other thing that nobody could verify one way or another. Unless, of course, you have the dash cam or some other video evidence.
One of my clients actually had a video equipped to the top of his car so when the police claim that he was going twenty miles over the speed limit, we beat them on that because he wasn’t and he had proof of it, but obviously, not all of us have that. Sometimes it’s difficult to counter the police’s evidence. The best way to do it though is to get your attorney. Tell him everything you know. I have clients come in and we go over the whole thing in the privacy of my office. Let the attorney get all the paperwork and then you talk about that as well. Now, you have all the pieces of the puzzle related to the illegal or legal pull over. You can decide or the attorney can decide whether or not a motion is going to be filed indicating that your Fourth Amendment rights were violated and they pulled you over illegally, and therefore, anything that they gathered from that pull over is fruit of the poisonous tree and should all be thrown out because of the unlawful pull over.
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