As Virginia DUI lawyers, we often meet with clients who believe the case against them is unbeatable—that they will be convicted of DUI no matter what. In many cases that isn’t true, even if the evidence against them is strong. To prove that point, one of the first things we look at is police procedure. If the police didn’t follow the rules, your rights were violated. The entire DUI case could be dropped or key evidence could be suppressed.
Police can make mistakes at any of stage of the process: the initial traffic stop, talking to you on the roadside, or during the arrest.
The Traffic Stop
Police cannot just stop any vehicle for no reason. There are rules around who they can stop and why. In particular, these rules exist to prevent discrimination and to avoid harassing law abiding citizens.
Generally, police cannot pull over a vehicle unless they have some reason to believe a crime has been committed. For example, if they see you run a stop sign, they witnessed the law being broken and can pull you over. Or if they see you swerve, they might reasonably suppose you’re drunk or distracted. But they cannot pull you over just because you “look suspicious.” The reason for pulling you over should be noted in their report and lack of probable cause could get a DUI charge thrown out.
The exception to this is DUI roadblocks (“checkpoints”). At a roadblock they do not need probably cause because they screen all traffic equally, without bias.
Once the police pull you over they will ask you for your license and registration, which you have to provide them. They will also look around and ask you questions. They’re trying to determine whether there are signs of alcohol, drugs, or any other broken law. But there are limits:
- They cannot search your vehicle unless they have a warrant, or you consent.
- They can ask you to take field sobriety tests (like balancing on a line) but you are not required to comply.
- They can ask you to take a PAS (roadside Breathalyzer test) but you are not required to comply if you haven’t been arrested.
Misleading you on any of these points, or forcing you, is a violation of your rights and could lead to evidence being censored.
Plus, as we’ve covered before, squad cars outfitted with video cameras are supposed to use them—with audio on—and failing to do so can get your charges dropped.
When the police arrest you they must read you your Miranda rights. This is the famous “right to remain silent” talk. If they don’t, once again your entire case could be challenged.
After the arrest, you are legally obligated to submit to a blood alcohol test. This can be a blood, breath or urine test. Refusing it is a crime in its own right. However, police are supposed to inform you of this when asking you to take the test. If they did not explain that refusing is a crime, the charge of refusal could be dismissed.
The only way to take advantage of these violations is to understand due process and your legal rights. That’s where your DUI lawyer comes in. If you’ve been arrested for DUI in Virginia, contact us and get a free case review today.