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What Are the Most Common Mistakes a Police Officer Makes When Engaged in Making an Arrest for a DUI?

If you live in Los Angeles County, and have been accused of driving under the influence, one of the many skilled attorneys at Los Angeles DUI Attorney Law Firm can vastly increase the odds of successful defense to the criminal charges against you. Additionally, the attorneys at Los Angeles DUI Attorney Law Firm can prove to be a highly beneficial asset if you opt to request a DMV hearing following your arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence. Our attorneys treat every case as if it was their own family who was being accused; this means we are prepared to fight for every client who walks through our doors. From the moment your FREE initial consultation begins, to the conclusion of your case, our attorneys are available all day, every day, attempting to develop the most effective argument in your defense, with the ultimate goal of defeating the Prosecutor’s case against you. We review every document involved in your arrest, we pursue every possible angle in creating your defense. Bringing one of our attorneys to your defense could result in the case against you being dismissed, and the suspension on your driver’s license being lifted. To accomplish this, our attorneys bring their years of education, experience, and tutelage under the very best defense attorneys to bear; finding flaws in the Prosecution’s against you.

There are recurring mistakes that police officers make when arresting individual’s on suspicion of driving under the influence. Some mistakes are procedural, and some mistakes are violations of your Constitutional rights. It is important to clarify that the Constitution was created to protect you from unacceptable actions performed by the government. With regards to the common mistakes police officers make, it is important to understand something called the “exclusionary rule.” The 4th, and 5th Amendment are designed to protect you from overzealous police work, the Courts have come to the conclusion that the most effective way to protect individual rights in this context, is to exclude evidence obtained in violation of your rights; this means if the Prosecution’s evidence against you was obtained in violation of your rights, they cannot introduce that evidence. When evidence is excluded, it can have the effect of crippling the case against you; this is how it should be. The list below does not represent the full spectrum of the arguments your attorney can put forth on your behalf, but it does represent the most common mistakes police officers make when arresting people on suspicion of driving under the influence. These arguments are also effective at your DMV hearing1.

Common errors made by police during DUI traffic stops and arrests include:

  • Initiating a traffic stop without reasonable suspicion that a crime has been, or is being, committed. “Reasonable suspicion” is less than the “probable case” requirement for an arrest, but “the police officer must be able to point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts…” that the individual has committed a crime; which can include traffic violations2.

EXAMPLE:

On Sunday afternoon near the Los Angeles Chargers’ football stadium, Officer Ross is on patrol in his squad car. He had been following the game on his phone, and knew that the Chargers had lost in a particularly harsh way. Based on that information, he figured there would be quite a few inebriated football fans on the roads. While driving, he saw a car with a Chargers decal on the window. While the driver of the vehicle was obeying all traffic laws, Officer Ross initiated a traffic stop on suspicion that the driver was under the influence, based on the fact that the Chargers had lost. After approaching the vehicle, he smells alcohol on the driver’s breath; he was right. Officer Ross conducted a breathalyzer test, and the result was .09%; Officer Ross then arrested the driver for driving under the influence in violation of California Vehicle Code §23152.

ANALYSIS:

Assuming your attorney from Los Angeles DUI Attorney Law Firm can present all the evidence above, as it relates to Officer Ross’ justification for initiating the traffic stop, two things will happen. First, at your DMV Hearing, the administrative judge will likely be forced to set-aside the automatic suspension of your license. Second, the District Attorney would likely opt to not bring charges against you. As mentioned above, the Constitution is designed to protect you from the government, and accomplishes that by excluding evidence that was obtained in violation of your Constitutional rights. Since the only basis for Officer Ross’ traffic stop was a hunch that people at the game were likely driving drunk because the Chargers lost, paired with the presence of a Chargers decal on the vehicle, Officer Ross did not have reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop (remember the person was obeying all traffic laws). As such, it is immaterial that Officer Ross was right, he cannot testify against you. Further, the breathalyzer test must also be excluded from evidence. The practical effect of this would leave the Prosecutor with the following admissible evidence: Officer Ross saw a vehicle with a charger decal obeying all traffic laws after a Chargers loss. This is not enough to sustain any conviction.

1Terry v. Ohio 392 U.S. 1, at 21

2Brinegar v. U.S. 338 U.S. 160, at 175-176

The officer performed an arrest on a stopped motorist without “probable cause.”

“Probable cause exists where the facts and circumstances within the officer’s knowledge and of which they had reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that an offense has been or is being committed3.”

EXAMPLE:

The facts are similar to the example above; except that Officer Ross observed that the driver was exceeding the speed limit. Officer Ross, having “reasonable suspicion” to believe that a crime has occurred (speeding), pulls the vehicle over. The officer approaches the vehicle and immediately notices a woman asleep in the back seat, she is obviously intoxicated, and there is nothing to indicate that the driver is under the influence. Officer Ross immediately arrests the driver of the vehicle for driving under the influence.

ANALYSIS:

In this scenario, Officer Ross has violated the driver’s Constitutional rights. The only information Officer Ross has to base his belief that the offense of driving under the influence is: (1) a belief that people who went to the Chargers game would be intoxicated, (2) the driver of the vehicle had a chargers decal on his car, and was near the stadium, (3) the driver was speeding; and (4) there was a woman in the back seat who was intoxicated. With that information, it does not follow that the driver of the vehicle was driving under the influence. Thus, any information obtained after the arrest will be inadmissible in Court.

  • The officer neglects to read you your Miranda4 rights after your arrest, but before beginning “custodial interrogation.” “Custodial interrogation” occurs after you are “under arrest” and an officer asks questions designed to elicit incriminating evidence. The Miranda warnings inform you of your right to remain silent, and your right to have an attorney present (there are other aspects to the warning, but these are the relevant portions for this article).

EXAMPLE:

The facts are similar to the facts in the example above; except in this case, Officer Ross also observed that the driver’s eyes were bloodshot, and he seemed disoriented. After this observation, Officer Ross placed the driver under arrest for driving under the influence. While the driver is in hand-cuffs in the back of Officer Ross’ patrol car, Officer Ross leans back and says “Alright man, be honest with me. How many drinks did you have at the game?” No Miranda warning has occurred yet. The driver responds “Man, I had at least 10 beers once the Chargers started blowing it.”

3Brinegar v. U.S. 338 U.S. 160, at 175-176

4For those who enjoy irony: after the Miranda case, the Defendant (Miranda) was released. One evening, while playing poker, Miranda was stabbed on suspicion of cheating. The story goes that while he was lying on the ground, an officer arrested his attacker… and read the attacker his Miranda rights.

ANALYSIS:

In this scenario, Officer Ross has reasonable suspicion to pull the driver over; he was exceeding the speed limit. He also had probable cause to arrest the driver on suspicion of driving under the influence because the driver’s eyes were blood-shot, and he seemed disoriented. However, since Officer Ross did not read the driver his Miranda rights, the statement “man, I had at least 10 beers once the Chargers started blowing it” cannot be presented at trial, since it was obtained in violation of the driver’s Constitutional rights, and was elicited by a question, after the driver was under arrest, that was designed to elicit incriminating information (the number of drinks the driver had). In this scenario, the District Attorney might be able to prove their case. However, a conviction would be questionable without the information provided by the driver, and the District Attorney would likely offer a plea bargain.

The remaining examples of common mistakes the police make when arresting someone on suspicion of driving under the influence of driving under the influence do not involve Constitutional violations.

  • The officer, or the individual analyzing the results of a test, which is designed to determine the BAC, or the degree of impairment, of the accused, interpreted the results of the test incorrectly.

Examples of factors that could result in a false interpretation of a “Field Sobriety Test”, designed to test the degree of impairment a driver is suffering from include:

1. Poor lighting in the area where the test is being conducted.

2. The area where the accused was performing the test was slick.

3. The officer provided inadequate instructions regarding what tasks the accused was supposed to perform.

4. Coordination mistake in the determination of the accused coordination.

5. The accused suffered from an unknown condition at the time of the test, which caused them to be unable to perform the tasks requested of them.

There are a number of other mistakes officers can make when arresting the accused on suspicion of driving under the influence; your attorney at Los Angeles DUI Attorney Law Firm are aware of every possible mistake an officer can make, and will proactively pursue those lines of defense. Ultimately resulting in the dismissal, or reduction, of the charges against you.

If you have been accused of driving under the influence, contact us immediately at 424-285-5400 for a FREE consultation.

i For more information on DMV Hearings, please take the time to review the article titled “DMV Hearing” in the DMV tab above. 

ii For those who enjoy irony: after the Miranda case, the Defendant (Miranda) was released. One evening, while playing poker, Miranda was stabbed on suspicion of cheating. The story goes that while he was lying on the ground, an officer arrested his attacker… and read the attacker his Miranda rights.