Chudnovsky Law has spent years protecting the rights and interests of people in Orange County charged with criminal offenses. We are renowned for our in-depth knowledge of the law and our strategic, results-oriented approach to criminal defense.
If you face DUI charges and believe that the initial traffic stop was unwarranted or without probable cause, you may challenge its admissibility.
Our DUI defense attorneys are powerful legal advocates serving the greater Orange County area. Our skilled attorneys meticulously review the details surrounding the stop, analyzing the officer's stated reasons, the administration of field sobriety tests, and the accuracy of breath or blood tests.
If we can prove the stop unlawful, we can motion to suppress the evidence gathered as a result, including sobriety test results and officer observations. This could lead to the reduction or even dismissal of the charges. However, you have a limited window of opportunity to act. Contact us to learn more about how Chudnovsky Law could protect your rights and build a strong defense for your unlawful stop DUI case.
What Is an Unlawful Stop?
States vest peace officers with the power to stop, question, and even arrest individuals under specific circumstances. They do not, however, receive absolute authority to stop and arrest people. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution ensures the right of every citizen "to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures."
A police officer without reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe that a crime has occurred, is occurring, or will soon occur may not stop or arrest people. If the courts deem a police stop unlawful, they may throw out any evidence obtained during the stop due to the exclusionary rule, significantly limiting the prosecution's case.
What Are Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause?
Reasonable suspicion and probable cause are legal definitions related to the burden of proof.
Reasonable suspicion is a lower legal standard than probable cause, required to justify a brief stop or Terry stop (named after the United States Supreme Court case Terry v. Ohio) of an individual. It requires police to have a sensible, articulate basis to suspect that a person is, was, or soon will engage in committing a crime. An officer’s gut feeling or hunch will not satisfy the burden of proof in a traffic stop.
For example, in DUI cases, an officer might observe a driver swerving erratically across lanes, driving significantly above or below the speed limit, or stopping without cause. The officer would likely have reasonable suspicion of an impaired driver and could lawfully initiate a traffic stop.
Probable cause is a higher standard requiring more concrete evidence. It exists when facts or evidence would lead a reasonable person to believe that a suspect has committed a crime. In DUI cases, the administration and poor performance of a field sobriety test or high Breathalyzer test could indicate probable cause to the conducting officer, leading to an arrest.
Is California a Stop and ID State?
Stop and ID laws describe when law enforcement can require a person to identify themselves. In states with stop and identify statutes, police can ask for identification based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Additionally, a police officer may use many many techniques to obtain identification from you, including continuing the detention or searching the vehicle or your person upon consent.
However, California does not have a statute stipulating that you must identify yourself after a police stop. This means that in California, you generally do not need to provide identification to police unless they detain or arrest you for a criminal violation. You, however, must produce your license, registration, and proof of insurance after a police traffic stop.
The Implications of Unlawful Police Stops
Not every interaction with the police constitutes a stop. Casual conversation, for instance, does not count as a stop. However, in a traffic stop, burden of proof standards apply. Police must support a stop with reasonable suspicion or probable cause. If they don’t, the law classifies it as an unlawful police stop, and a court could render any evidence gathered as inadmissible.
After a DUI arrest following an unlawful police stop, you could face severe repercussions. A DUI conviction in California can lead to fines, license suspension, mandatory DUI education programs, and even jail time, especially for repeat offenders.
However, the administration of these penalties still depends on the strength of the prosecution’s evidence.
Suppose a law enforcement officer stops you for a minor traffic violation and, during the stop, discovers an open alcohol container or illegal drugs in your vehicle. If it turns out that the officer had no legitimate reason to pull you over and fabricated the supposed traffic violation, the court could exclude the drug evidence from your case, seriously weakening the prosecution's position.
Protecting Your Rights During a Police Stop
Whether you believe a police stop is lawful or not, remain calm and composed. Do not resist or argue with the officer; it can only escalate the situation. Politely request the reason for the stop, and remember that you have the right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination. You are not legally required to answer potentially incriminating questions such as "Have you been drinking?"
You have the right to politely decline field sobriety tests and portable Breathalyzer tests, although declining could lead to immediate arrest and other penalties. However, once police arrest or book you, California's implied consent law means you must submit to a chemical test (breath or blood) at the station or face enhanced penalties. If police arrest you, ask to speak to an attorney immediately and do not answer further questions without your attorney present.
Challenging Unlawful Police Stops with Chudnovsky Law
As experienced DUI defense attorneys, we at Chudnovsky Law understand that the key to a successful defense often lies in challenging the legality of the initial traffic stop. Was there a legitimate reason for the officer to suspect DUI? Was there a valid traffic violation that justified the stop? Or was the stop initiated without any reasonable suspicion or probable cause?
Investigating the Circumstances of the Stop
Our skilled attorneys meticulously review the details surrounding the stop, analyzing the officer's stated reasons, the administration of field sobriety tests, and the accuracy of breath or blood tests. If the facts do not add up, or if the officer violated procedure, we may use that information to demonstrate that the stop was indeed unlawful. We may then motion to suppress the evidence gathered as a result, including sobriety test results and officer observations. This motion could lead to the reduction or even dismissal of the charges.
Protecting Your Rights Throughout the Process
If you believe the police unlawfully stopped you, retain experienced legal counsel. At Chudnovsky Law, we are dedicated to safeguarding your constitutional rights and will thoroughly investigate your stop. We are adept at using carefully crafted defense strategies not just to challenge the legality of the stop, but also to expose any misconduct or prejudice that might have influenced the police officer's decision to stop you.
We also believe in educating our clients about their rights. Knowing what constitutes a lawful stop, your rights during a stop, and the actions that qualify as police misconduct can empower you during these interactions.
Using Strong Legal Groundwork to Build a Defense
Our criminal defense attorneys are well-versed in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, and we will carefully scrutinize the legality of the police stop, arrest, and any subsequent searches or seizures. If we determine that the police violated your rights, we will aggressively challenge the admissibility of the prosecution's evidence and seek to exclude it from your case.
Unlawful police stops don't just infringe upon your constitutional rights; they can lead to incorrect and unjust charges and convictions. Such unwarranted actions undermine the very foundation of our legal system, which values fairness and justice.
Unlawfully Stopped? Chudnovsky Law Is Your Top DUI Defense Attorney.
If you suspect that you have been the victim of an unlawful police stop, seek legal representation as soon as possible. An experienced DUI lawyer can often suppress evidence obtained from such stops, significantly changing the trajectory of your case. Moreover, you must act quickly; you have just 10 days after a DUI arrest to challenge the suspension of your driver’s license.
When you contact an attorney at our firm, we prioritize your case, knowing that your future is at stake, so we begin our investigation right away.
At Chudnovsky Law, we provide dedicated, knowledgeable representation to the citizens of Orange County. We’re here to protect your rights and ensure a fair legal process. While an unlawful police stop doesn't mean an automatic win in a criminal case, it can certainly set the stage for a strong defense when paired with a robust legal strategy and a skilled DUI defense attorney.
After a DUI arrest, especially if you believe the police unlawfully stopped you, reach out to us immediately to learn more about how we might help you. Our unwavering attorneys can leverage our extensive experience and nuanced understanding of California DUI laws to fight for your rights and your future. Contact Chudnovsky Law today at (949) 750-2500 to discuss your case and explore the possibilities of challenging your unlawful police stop.