Federal law prevents any law enforcement officer from pulling you over while driving without having a good reason to. This good reason is called probable cause and it is necessary for a pull over to be valid. Probable cause is part of the Fourth Amendment, which allows citizens the right to freedom from "unreasonable searches and seizures". The Fourth Amendment ensures you privacy and security from law enforcement in absence of any good reason to violate that privacy. Being pulled over while you are driving is one such violation, if there is no probable cause. Under the Fourth Amendment, an officer must have probable cause to pull you over for your right to remain protected. Without probable cause, the charges that could have resulted from that stop could be dismissed. An exception to this rule is DUI checkpoints, also called sobriety checkpoints or DUI roadblocks. These stops are planned and advertised in advance and set up in areas where it is suspected people drive while under the influence. While they result in people being pulled over, or stopped at a checkpoint, without probable cause, the toll DUIs have on the safety of Californian roads have made DUI checkpoints an important exception to the right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. Many things can constitute probable cause but they must be indicative of some sort of violation on your part. For example, a police officer or other law enforcement officer cannot pull you over unless they have reason to believe you have or will violate an ordinance or law. Keep in mind just how many reasons there are for being pulled over. Your car must be up to code and in working order; you could be pulled over for having an improperly displayed license plate or for having a tail light out. You could also be pulled over for speeding, swerving or otherwise putting other drivers in danger. Keep in mind that even if you don't feel the officer had any probable cause to pull you over, you can politely ask why you were stopped but ultimately, it is a good idea to cooperate with the officer. Make sure you are informed of your rights as a US citizen. Your car is protected under the Fourth Amendment, much like a house is, so an officer must have reason to search your car or seize anything within it. Also, know your rights as a person. You do not have to answer any interrogating questions if you are being taken into custody without having an attorney present but you must provide basic identifying information and any license, registration and proof of insurance he or she may ask of you. You should be read your Miranda Rights if you are arrested and it is a good idea to exercise these rights; don't answer any questions without speaking with an attorney. If you are simply written a ticket you don't feel you deserve, accept it and sign it on the spot. You can contest it in court, but don't try to contest it on the street. It is important to know whether or not the officer who pulled you over with probable cause because you have rights as a citizen and protection under the Fourth Amendment. If you feel you were pulled over without probable cause and are facing criminal charges as a result of being pulled over, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your case. You may be able to challenge the charges against you. For example, being pulled over without probable cause is one defense element you can raise in a DUI case. It is important you stand up for your rights if law enforcement officers violate them. Doing so can help maintain the integrity of the criminal justice system and it may even help you avoid a charge.
If you are facing DUI charges in the Tulare, Kings or Fresno County area and have questions about probable cause, contact experienced DUI defense attorney Christopher Martens for expert counsel. Mr. Martens has handled thousands of criminal defense cases and has taken over 50+ cases to trial. He will not be afraid to take your case all the way and fight for your rights. Contact our offices in Hanford and Visalia at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss your case.