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  • How Unlawful Police Stop Can Help Your Case

    Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

    unlawful police stopMost people with a license have experienced the stress of a traffic stop.

    This experience could create even more stress if you were drinking earlier in the day. But what happens if the police never had a valid reason to pull you over in the first place?

    While claiming a police stop was unlawful might seem like an excuse used by everyone after an arrest, there are some situations where the allegation is valid.

    DUI stops can present unique issues, especially when law enforcement agencies use DUI sobriety checkpoints.

    If you were arrested during an unlawful police stop, you should contact an attorney right away.

    Our attorneys at the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices have over two decades of combined experience representing individuals facing criminal charges. Contact our office today so we can start reviewing your case.

    What Is an Unlawful Police Stop?

    Law enforcement officials need reasonable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop. Reasonable suspicion can arise in many ways, including:

    • Weaving in and out of your lane;
    • Expired tags;
    • Driving carelessly;
    • Obstruction of your windshield;
    • Failure to use a turn signal;
    • Exceeding the posted speed limit;
    • Violating traffic lights or signs;
    • Lack of seatbelt; or
    • Other traffic violations.

    If law enforcement observes one of the above violations, they have reasonable suspicion to pull you over.

    If an officer arrests you after a traffic stop but never had reasonable suspicion to pull you over, you could challenge your arrest.

    Alternatively, if an officer searched your vehicle during the traffic stop and recovered contraband, you could challenge the unlawful police stop to get the evidence thrown out.

    Hiring a criminal defense lawyer gives you the best chance of challenging an unlawful police stop.

    Contact the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices today so we can take a look at your case. 

    Unlawful Police Stop at a DUI Sobriety Checkpoint

    While DUI sobriety checkpoints are legal, they must fulfill certain requirements to ensure they are not infringing on anyone’s rights.

    In normal circumstances, law enforcement can only make a traffic stop if they have reasonable suspicion that you committed a traffic violation or other crime.

    At a DUI checkpoint, law enforcement does not need reasonable suspicion, as long as the DUI checkpoint does not violate the Fourth Amendment.

    First, law enforcement cannot set up permanent DUI checkpoints. They can only set up temporary checkpoints with the goal of apprehending motorists who are drinking and driving.

    Additionally, law enforcement must try to keep the disruption of traffic at a minimum.

    Next, police officers must use preset criteria when stopping vehicles. That means an officer can not use their own discretion to select which vehicles are stopped.

    For example, the agency might decide to stop every fourth vehicle at the checkpoint. If this is the predetermined rule, an officer cannot ignore that rule to stop a different vehicle because they had a hunch or for any other reason.

    Law enforcement must provide the public notice about the planned DUI checkpoint before it occurs. You can typically find announcements in the local news or by searching for planned DUI checkpoints online. 

    Finally, the intrusion from the checkpoint must stay at a minimum, absent reasonable suspicion that you committed another crime. Officers cannot search every vehicle that stops at the checkpoint.

    However, if officers stop a vehicle at the checkpoint and the driver shows signs of impairment, that could give the officers reasonable suspicion to search the vehicle. Indicia of impairment can include bloodshot or watery eyes, the smell of alcohol emanating from the vehicle, open containers in the car, or slurred speech.

    What Should I Do at a DUI Checkpoint?

    First, remember to remain calm. The police officers at the DUI checkpoint can screen you by asking questions regardless of whether they detain you or not.

    These questions might include:

    • Where are you going?
    • Where are you coming from?
    • Do you have a driver’s license and car insurance?
    • Have you been drinking?

    You should not try to turn around and avoid a DUI checkpoint once you see it on the road. Purposely avoiding a DUI checkpoint can act as reasonable suspicion to authorize a traffic stop, so attempting to turn around can backfire.

    Furthermore, getting combative or refusing to cooperate with the officers will not help you. Instead, that behavior could end up getting you arrested for obstruction of justice.

    Answer their questions politely and comply with any requests. However, that does not mean you should make incriminating statements to the officers. Keep your answers short and to the point. 

    If law enforcement agencies do not follow the guidelines for DUI sobriety checkpoints, the court could throw out the evidence they recovered.

    The state would likely have difficulty proving your drunk driving charge if your test results were excluded from evidence. 

    In many cases, these DUI checkpoints are conducted improperly. If you were arrested after a DUI checkpoint, contact New Mexico Criminal Law Offices as soon as possible.

    We have helped countless individuals with their DUI charges. You need a team of lawyers with experience handling DUI cases and awareness of the common issues with DUI checkpoints.

    Contact us today so we can review your case.

    How Can an Attorney Help Me After an Unlawful Traffic Stop?

    Our team at the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices has encountered numerous cases where an unlawful traffic stop resulted in criminal charges.

    In some cases, we can get the evidence recovered during an unlawful stop excluded from trial or get the charges dismissed entirely.

    We know the ins and outs of these DUI cases, including the errors that law enforcement often makes while conducting sobriety checkpoints. 

    Even though we have a long history of defending DUI charges, we know that no two cases are the same.

    We take the time to conduct a thorough investigation in every case so we can tailor a defense strategy to your circumstances. When your freedom is at stake, you should not settle for less than the best.

    Contact the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices today so we can start working on your defense.