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DUI 103: What Happened at the Traffic Stop?


“kinda like frogger” by Author

The traffic stop and/or arrest are crucial to the timeline of a DUI case.  It is when the officer responds where the case possibly can completely unravel for the prosecution, if the circumstances are right.

The Fourth Amendment comes into play when a police officer stops a vehicle under reasonable suspicion that the motorist has or is in the process of committing a crime.  The leading case is Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), where the Supreme Court held that a person stopped and detained by police under is protected by the Fourth Amendment, and that any evidence obtained by police through an illegal traffic stop cannot be admitted in court (the “exclusionary rule”).  And in U.S. v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411 (1981), the Court clarified that an officer need only to have “reasonable suspicion” that a motorist had or was in the process of committing a crime to pull over the vehicle and detain the occupants.  The consequences of these and other court rulings are that police departments have specific guidelines and training on how to conduct a legal traffic stop.

It is here where a good investigation can lead to information that can make or break a DUI defense.  First, ask a series of questions about events leading up to the traffic stop.  What were the viewing conditions for the officer– day or night, good or bad weather, obstructions from traffic or objects on or along the side of the road, items in the police car that could have blocked the view, etc.?  What specific behavior did the officer see?  Were the road markings and signs clear enough to see?  If the officer did not have reasonable suspicion that you or your client did not commit a traffic infraction, than s/he did not have any cause to conduct a traffic stop.

After the officer stops the vehicle, there are more questions.  Were the officer’s directions to the driver clear and understandable?  Was the pat-down search performed properly, i.e., on the outside of clothing, without probing into pockets?  Did the officer properly conduct the Standard Field Sobriety Tests?  If the driver was unruly or otherwise uncooperative or belligerent to the officer, did s/he reasonably respond in kind?  Did the officer properly read the driver his/her Miranda rights, and after that, did the police conduct a proper interrogation?  And if the police seized anything from the vehicle, was there probable cause for a search incident to arrest, or did they get a warrant?

Any and every question about what happened at the traffic stop, no matter how insignificant they may seem, must be answered in order to give yourself or your client the best defense possible.  And it goes a long way towards letting the judge and prosecution know that you did your homework.

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This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.

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DUI 102: Check Out the Scene


“checkerboard crosswalk” by Author

In defending a DUI case, it’s best to first go back to basics.  And there’s nothing more basic than finding out what happened at the accident/traffic stop scene.

Every accident or traffic stop is like a person — no two are exactly alike, even if they happened in the same location under similar circumstances.  You cannot assume that a new case will be anything like something you had dealt with in the past.  So you should take the time to visit the scene.  Make note of everything you can — pavement conditions, the way the lines are painted on the road, placement of signs and traffic signals, trees and other vegetation, the angle of the sun at different times of the day, sidewalks and/or sidewalks, buildings and other landmarks.  And also pay close attention to where the police officer observed the alleged behavior or responded to the accident.

Taking the time to visit and learn everything you can about the scene of the incident can go a long way.  Foremost, you’ll give notice to the judge and the prosecution that you prepared a thoughtful defense.  And it will give your client  some peace of mind that you are looking after his/her best interests.

This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.

DUI 101: A Summary of Your Defense


“he’s coming for you” by Author

The repercussions of a DUI conviction can be severe.  Not only can you face a fine and/or jail time, but you will likely lose your driving privileges for an extended period.  So, of course, the best way to avoid a DUI conviction is simply to avoid drinking and driving.

But if you do somehow end up in a situation where you are charged with DUI, and you want to go to trial and not try to cut a plea deal for a lesser charge with the prosecution, there is a minefield to negotiate on your way to an acquittal.  In your preparation for that undertaking, you should begin formulating your defense with the following points:

1. Visit the scene of the traffic stop and arrest and learn it backwards and forwards.

2. Know the specifics of the arrest and detention itself, paying close attention to possible 4th Amendment search and seizure violations.

3. In cross-examination, dissect the arresting officer’s knowledge and administration of the Standard Field Sobriety Test for deficiencies.

Above all, be thorough.  The standard is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, so even minor details that can question the evidence against you or your client can be important enough to result in an acquittal.

This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.