Unlawful Police Stops in Jacksonville
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Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, police must have probable cause to believe there has been a violation of the law to initiate a search. This means that there must be some indication in your driving that you are drunk driving or otherwise breaking the law for the police to validly stop you. Where police have overstepped, a Jacksonville DUI lawyer will move to exclude evidence obtained in the illegal stop. When the court approves the motion, the prosecution usually has no choice but to dismiss the case.
What Is Considered Probable Cause?
For a law enforcement officer to make a lawful police stop, it is vitally important that they have what is known as "probable cause." This simply means that they must have some form of evidence that supports the fact that the driver was breaking the law in some capacity. Contrary to popular belief, officers are not permitted to act on whims whenever they desire.
For example, they can't park outside of bars and wait for a driver to leave. The driver must have exhibited some form of drunkenness before the traffic stop became legal. So what is considered grounds for a traffic stop? Any form of traffic violation, such as speeding, or even a physical issue with the car, such as broken lights. Other grounds for a traffic stop could include body damage to the car, failing to use turn signals, expired license plates or aggressive, unlawful behavior.
Sobriety Checkpoints: Exception to the Rule
As an exception to the rule, police may set up sobriety checkpoints on holidays and special occasions to systematically stop motorists to check for sobriety. The Florida courts have ruled these stops are a valid use of the state power to control drunk driving. That does not mean though that police may stop anyone, anywhere to check sobriety. It must be part of a systematized check where many are stopped routinely. It may not be an isolated instance where a police officer has a hunch you are drunk driving just because you're driving a high performance vehicle or another arbitrary reason.
Unlawful Police Stops
In order for sobriety checkpoints to remain constitutional, law enforcement officials must follow very strict regulations and patterns for stopping cars. For example, police must determine beforehand that they are going to stop every "Nth" vehicle such as every 4th or 5th car. Law enforcement may not stop and question the driver of a vehicle simply because they had a hunch, which is an unfounded suspicion.
Other questions to ask when it comes to DUI checkpoints include: Was the roadblock properly marked? Was a police supervisor at the scene of the checkpoint to approve of how it was being conducted? Did a police supervisor approve of the type and nature of the checkpoint before it was implemented? Was your vehicle detained at length without valid cause?
Contact Us for a Free Consultation
We at Jason K.S. Porter, P.A. are strong defenders of our client's rights when police have randomly stopped them without probable cause. We have been serving the Jacksonville, Florida area with DUI defense. As three former prosecuting attorneys with approximately 100 years pf combined legal experience, we have successfully obtained many dismissals or acquittals of charges when police have infringed on our clients' rights with illegal stops.
We urge you to speak with a Jacksonville DUI attorney at the firm as soon after your arrest as possible.
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