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When Will Police Pull Someone Over for DUI in California?

 Posted on November 16, 2023 in DUI

Untitled---2023-11-16T122211.478.jpgDriving after drinking alcohol or using drugs can be very dangerous. The use of these substances can impair a person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely, and it greatly increases the chances of an accident occurring in which people may suffer serious harm. Because of this, driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in California. Law enforcement agencies throughout the state work diligently to enforce DUI laws and keep the roads safe for all drivers. But when can police officers legally pull someone over for suspected drunk driving? In order to perform a traffic stop, they must have reasonable suspicion that a driver is impaired. If you have been arrested for DUI, but you are unsure about whether there was a valid reason to pull you over, an experienced attorney can help you understand how to address this issue.

The Requirement for Reasonable Suspicion

In order to make a valid traffic stop, a law enforcement officer must have a "reasonable suspicion" that a person has violated the law. The concept of reasonable suspicion comes from Supreme Court decisions that have found that unnecessary stops and searches by police officers are violations of people’s rights.

This legal standard of reasonable suspicion requires police officers to possess specific facts or observations that would lead them to reasonably believe that criminal activity is occurring or has occurred. When it comes to DUI stops specifically, these facts or observations typically include:

  • Erratic driving behavior: If an officer notices strange driving patterns such as swerving, excessive speed changes, abrupt braking, or failure to signal when making turns or changing lanes, they may develop a reasonable suspicion of impairment due to alcohol consumption.

  • Traffic violations: Committing violations like running red lights or stop signs, making illegal turns or lane changes, following other vehicles too closely, driving above the speed limit, or driving well below the speed limit in a way that affects the flow of traffic can also be indicators of possible drunk driving behavior.

  • Observed impairment symptoms: Signs of intoxication such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and difficulty maintaining balance while walking or standing are often associated with alcohol impairment. If an officer observed some of these signs or behaviors before a person got into their car and began driving, this may be grounds for reasonable suspicion that the person was impaired.

  • Tips from other drivers or witnesses: Sometimes, law enforcement officers may receive credible tips from other drivers or witnesses reporting suspected drunk driving. People may call a police station to report erratic driving, or witnesses may inform an officer they pass while walking down the street to let them know that someone appeared to be drunk or intoxicated. If the officer believes these tips are reliable and identifies the vehicle in question, a traffic stop can be initiated.

One or two of these factors alone may not necessarily justify a DUI stop. However, if an officer observes continuing behavior that indicates that a driver may be intoxicated, they may determine that this constitutes reasonable suspicion to pull a driver over and determine whether they should be arrested for DUI. However, since these observations are based on an officer’s subjective opinions, it may be possible to challenge the stated reasons for performing a traffic stop. If an attorney can demonstrate that an officer had no valid reason for pulling a driver over, their arrest of the driver on suspicion of DUI may be found to be illegal, and any DUI charges against the driver may be dismissed.

Contact an Experienced San Francisco DUI Defense Attorney 

If you believe your rights were violated during a DUI traffic stop, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney who can help you understand your options for defending against DUI charges. At Burglin Law Offices, P.C., our Sonoma DUI lawyer can review the circumstances surrounding your arrest and determine if any legal violations occurred. We can help determine whether a lack of reasonable suspicion that you were impaired may allow the case against you to be dropped, and we will also advise you of any other defense strategies that may help you avoid being convicted. To learn more about how we can assist with your case, contact us today at 415-729-7300 and schedule a free consultation.

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