Your Rights and Protections
Both State and Federal Constitutions protect you from unreasonable search and seizure. Legally defined, unreasonable search and seizure is a search without a warrant or probable cause. But in California DUI stops, it is not uncommon for this right to be violated or sidestepped. Many people wonder whether an officer needs a warrant issued by a judge to search a car during a DUI stop. The rules on this are complex. To make matters worse, law enforcement doesn't always follow them. To better understand what you should do doing a DUI stop let's take a look at what an officer can do without a warrant.
Search in Plain Sight
First of all, it's important to know that the police will be looking in your vehicle if you are stopped for a DUI, either after being pulled over or at a sobriety checkpoint. They do not need a warrant to look into your car and view what is in plain sight. Thus, if there is evidence of drug or alcohol use in plain sight, the police have probable cause to arrest you without a warrant. This is one reason why you should make use of your glove compartment and trunk.
Do Not Provide Consent
Second, the police don't need a warrant if you provide consent. Sometimes people give consent for a search when they are caught off guard by the stop or are worried they will be arrested if they do not provide consent. It is generally not a good idea to provide consent and waive your right. If the officer is trying to find evidence of a crime, he or she will find it.
Police may also search without a warrant if they have probable cause. Probable cause is a reasonable basis to believe a crime has been committed. If an officer has reason to believe you were driving under the influence, he or she can arrest you and then search your car without a warrant. It goes without saying that probable cause can be easily fabricated. In many cases, it's the officer's word against yours, and if the officer says you were slurring your speech or he or she smelled alcohol on your breath or in your car, that may be all it takes.
Another situation where your car could be searched without a warrant is if you were arrested and law enforcement impounded your car. Once impounded, the officer can do an inventory search, which will then be included in the report.
You should also know it is not uncommon for police to make mistakes. While you do have constitutional rights, police don't always know how to respect those rights in particular situations. It's hard for civilians to do this, too. Sometimes the probable cause isn't strong, causing police to make poor judgment calls. It isn't always clear whether someone is under the influence of alcohol. Police are also under pressure to get evidence to submit with their report. So, you should speak with an attorney if you feel your rights were violated at a DUI stop.
The police only need one of these reasons to search your person and your car. Even without a warrant, the police have several opportunities to search your car and even arrest you. Do not rely on your right to unreasonable search and seizure and expect it to protect you. This right has many exceptions and limitations. The bottom line is the law protects you up to a certain extent but allows law enforcement to take necessary action if there is probable cause. The good news is if you were arrested or evidence was gathered during an illegal search, you may be able to file a motion to suppress the evidence or even potentially have your case dismissed.
Speak with an attorney if you've been arrested and have questions about your rights. An attorney can explain your rights and evaluate the facts and circumstances of your arrest to determine whether the police had probable cause for their actions. Sometimes probable cause can be challenged in court, while other times it stands. Working with an experienced California criminal defense attorney is the only way to know your rights are fully protected and you are prosecuted based off of legally obtained evidence.
Are you facing DUI charges? Visalia area DUI and driving crime defense attorney Christopher Martens can help you fight your charges and defend your rights. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Mr. Martens has handled thousands of cases and has taken over 50 to trial. Attorney Christopher Martens has the skills and knowledge needed to defend your rights. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert criminal defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.