Virginia has begun to forcefully crack down on drunk and impaired drivers and with DUI accidents exceeding 8,000 per year, it’s easy to see their motivation. However, with this growing enthusiasm to catch DUI offenders, some officers mistakenly charge and arrest drivers. Other officers let their desire to catch offenders overshadow their obligations to uphold the law. It’s this failure that can be used to your advantage in court.
When you’re charged with driving under the influence, whether you are guilty or not, you have options to get the charges dismissed. The easiest of these options is to challenge the arresting officer’s proof of probable cause. If he was overzealous in pulling you over and did so with no indication that you had been drinking, he may have violated your 4th Amendment rights. If he did not have a reason for pulling you over, it doesn’t matter what he discovered afterwards, your rights were violated and the charges may not hold up in court.
Dismissing the Case With the Help of the Fourth Amendment
The Search and Seizure Laws outlined in the Fourth Amendment guarantee your right to privacy. These laws clearly cover how police officers can pull you over, talk to you, pat you down, and arrest you. When it comes to traffic stops for DUI suspicion, it specifically states that the police officer must have probable cause that a crime is being committed by witnessing a driver committing a traffic violation or believing a driver is under the influence based on their driving patterns.
If an officer pulls you over without being able to produce evidence of probable cause, then he cannot charge you with a crime, whether you’re guilty or not. If the officer proceeds to charge you with a DUI or DWI, you can use his lack of probable cause to evoke the violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Consequently, if the officer still can’t provide a valid reason to a judge for pulling you over, your case will be dismissed. Common examples of actions that police can use as probable cause include:
- Reckless driving, including excessive swerving, braking, or wide turns.
- Speeding or driving too slowly which may indicate slowed reflexes or incomprehension.
- Consistent misuse of lights or turn signals.
- Erratic behavior such as screaming out the windows or shaking your vehicle.
- Statements from others who witnessed your intoxication before getting into your vehicle, or fellow drivers who called in your erratic driving.
- Witnessing signs of drunkenness such as odd behavior at traffic lights or stops, or witnessing physical evidence of drinking such as open bottles of liquor inside the vehicle (evidence must be seen before the police pull you over).
Unfortunately, Virginia also has dedicated DUI checkpoints that are used to identify impaired drivers. These checkpoints are 100% legal and do not require probable cause. However, if you are pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving in a checkpoint-free zone, the officer must have a valid reason for doing so. Otherwise, you have the ability to challenge the arrest and have the charges dismissed.
For more information on how we can help you secure a DUI dismissal defense, give us a call at 703-865-6610 or contact us today.