Criminal Defense in Orange County

Was My DUI Traffic Stop Proper?

Pretext Stops

Except for DUI stops involving equal protection issues (for example, race), a DUI stop is not invalidated merely because the police officer had an improper or ulterior motive. As long as the officer had an objectively reasonable motive for stopping you, such as seeing you make a traffic violation, the real reason for pulling you over (for example, to look for drugs) does not matter. The United States Supreme Court has even held in favor of so-called pretext stops.

Common Reasons for Traffic Stops

Of the hundreds of laws that motorists may violate, and which police officers may use to pull a car over, there are a few primary reasons for stops that result in DUI charges. One of the most common of these is weaving. Different courts have come to different conclusions as to what type of driving violations justifies, or does not justify, a DUI stop.

Weaving Within the Lane

Many courts have held that an officer has reasonable cause to stop a vehicle on suspicion of driving under the influence if the officer witnesses a vehicle weaving within a lane for a substantial distance. In one California case, 3/4 of a mile was deemed a "substantial distance." Courts have also found that "continued weaving" within the lane justifies a DUI stop. An Orange County DUI defense attorney can advise you whether a California court is likely to rule your traffic stop lawful or unlawful.

But courts outside California have concluded that weaving within the lane, rather than across lanes, did not permit detention of the vehicle. Other courts have also ruled that merely touching the boundary of a lane is not a violation of the law, as weaving out of the lane would be. For example, in a case from Texas, an officer followed the driver for about a mile and a half. The officer testified that he saw the driver's vehicle weave within a lane between two and seven times. But because the officer was not certain how many times the driver had weaved within the lane, the court found the DUI stop unlawful.

If you've been arrested for a DUI, get legal representation from a competent criminal lawyer in Orange County. Contact The Law Office of Barney B. Gibbs today for a free initial consultation.