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Defending People in Long Island Charged after Improper DUI Stops

In our country, the police are not allowed to just stop people on the street and question them at random in hopes of turning up some evidence of criminal activity; instead they must first have some suspicion or reason to believe the individual is somehow guilty of a crime. The same rule applies to stopping people in their vehicles. Subjects of traffic stops are protected by legal rights guaranteed by New York law and the U.S. Constitution. The DUI defense attorneys at 888-DUI-LAWYER know your rights and will stand up for you in any Long Island DWI arrest which was based on an improper stop.

Police Need a Reasonable, Articulable Suspicion to Stop a Motorist

The legal standard for stopping a motorist requires that a police officer have a reasonable, articulable suspicion. In other words, the officer must be able to clearly express in plain words why he or she decided to stop the motorist. A valid reason may be if the officer personally observes illegal activity, such as a moving violation (speeding, failing to signal, running a red light) or an equipment violation (broken headlight or brake light, obstructed windows). The officer need not suspect the driver of being intoxicated or impaired to make this type of traffic stop, but may develop further suspicion of DUI after observing the driver in person.

If the officer observes erratic driving that is not actually illegal, such as weaving within a lane, the officer must be able to articulate that the observed behavior is consistent with impaired driving in order to have the authority to stop the motorist and investigate further. Police officers are generally trained to observe any of the 24 signs of DUI published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These 24 cues or signs fall into four categories: problems staying in the lane, speed and braking problems, attention and vigilance difficulties, and problems with judgment and response. Observing a number of different signs gives the police a stronger suspicion to pull someone over.

Sometimes a stop is not based on anything the police officer actually observed but instead comes from a tip – sometimes anonymous – provided by a private person who says he or she observed another’s impaired driving. This is usually not enough by itself to form the basis of a valid stop. Instead there must be some “indicia of reliability” that supports the tip. One example would be if the officer followed the motorist to personally observe erratic driving before deciding to pull the driver over. A stop based solely on an anonymous tip alone is generally considered improper, and a good DUI attorney can successfully attack an arrest that arose from such an improper stop.

DUI Traffic Stops Must Follow Procedure

Any traffic stop must be reasonable in scope, both in terms of how long the stop lasts and how extensively the person is questioned or searched. Stops that last too long or exceed their scope may be considered unreasonable, and your lawyer may be able to have any evidence obtained from that stop thrown out of court. Other improper procedures may include:

  • Motorist is arrested for refusing to perform field sobriety tests
  • Motorist is not given proper warnings or notice before being required to take a chemical test

Cause to Stop is Different than Cause to Arrest

While the police only need a reasonable, articulable suspicion to make a stop, they need to meet the higher standard of probable cause in order to make an arrest. The purpose of the stop is for the police to develop that probable cause based on your behavior. Their observation begins the moment you are pulled over. They observe the way you stop your car as well as your demeanor in person. Having red or bloodshot eyes or slurred speech, smelling like alcohol, or failing field sobriety tests may all give rise to probable cause, especially when coupled with observed erratic driving.

Don’t Argue with the Police. Speak with an Experienced Long Island DUI Lawyer Today!

Even if you believe the police did not have sufficient grounds to pull you over, during the stop is not the time to argue with the police. The more you interact with the police during the stop, the more chance you give them to develop probable cause for an arrest. Instead, tell your attorney about the circumstances surrounding the stop. Your lawyer will raise the issue of an improper stop at the earliest possible opportunity to get your case dismissed or have the evidence against you suppressed.

For aggressive, effective representation designed to get the best possible results after your Long Island DWI arrest, call 888-DUI-LAWYER for a no-cost, confidential consultation.

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