Common Mistakes Police Make When Investigating DUI
No one is perfect, including police officers. Officers can make mistakes in the following areas concerning DUI charges.
- Following appropriate procedure
- Legally engaging in a traffic stop
- Arresting a suspect
- Testing equipment use
- Improperly storing evidence
If an officer makes one of these mistakes anywhere in the process of pulling you over, testing your BAC or arresting you for a DUI, your defense attorney could use the details to earn a dismissal of charges, exoneration or wrongful conviction.
We’ll explain some of the most common mistakes that police officers make during a traffic stop.
The dictionary defines reasonable suspicion as:
“An objectively justifiable suspicion that is based on specific facts or circumstances and that justifies stopping and sometimes searching (as by frisking) a person thought to be involved in criminal activity at the time.”
That means that a police officer cannot pull you over at will. They must have some reason for doing so. An officer should have reasonable suspicion that a motorist broke the law of the road to engage in a traffic stop. This could be because your driving behavior calls into question your sobriety or it could be for a traffic violation, such as speeding.
So if the officer had no reason to engage in the original traffic stop when they came to later find that you had been drinking, the traffic stop might be inadmissible.
Additionally, the officer must have probable cause during the traffic stop to test your BAC. Here’s how the Cornell Law School defines probable cause:
“Courts usually find probable cause when there is a reasonable basis for believing that a crime may have been committed (for an arrest) or when evidence of the crime is present in the place to be searched (for a search).”
Therefore, the officer must have some proof that you’ve committed a crime to arrest you. This means gathering evidence of such. It goes one step beyond suspicion to require proof. Without probable cause, arresting someone is completely illegal and unfounded.
Field sobriety test errors
Field sobriety tests require a series of movements. These tests check the driver’s physical abilities to evaluate whether the driver has been drinking. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) designed this test.
But the test requires that the officer follow specific protocol. Failing to do so could invalidate the test and make it inadmissible. An inability to complete one of the physical requirements does not necessarily indicate an illegal amount of drugs or alcohol are in the driver’s system. For example, some people cannot stand on one leg due to issues in balance or inner ear ailments.
Likewise, conducting a breathalyzer test takes careful expertise. Officers go through rigorous training to learn how to use the device. However, this training does require regular refresher courses. If the officers fail to complete these refresher courses or administer the test wrong in any way, it can invalidate the results.
DUI arrest mistakes
When the officer pulls you over for a traffic stop, they’ll likely ask many questions. During this time, the officer has every right to ask questions without explaining your rights. Your answers to these questions are admissible in the DUI case. To protect your rights, it’s best to tell the officer you’d like to speak to an attorney.
Once the officer initiates an arrest though, that’s when your Miranda rights take place. The officer should read you those rights and respect your decision to invoke the Fifth Amendment. Failing to read your rights when beginning the arrest could mean that everything you say during that time cannot be admitted to your case.
There are several other areas where a police officer can make mistakes in a DUI case. These include police report errors, evidence contamination and evidence tampering. The best way to discover these mistakes is to hire a defense attorney who will evaluate all case details. Contact us now for a free case evaluation and consultation.