Everyone makes mistakes, including police officers involved in DUI arrests, but because these mistakes can sometimes affect people’s civil rights, they need to be taken very seriously. In fact, if an officer involved in your DUI traffic stop or arrest made one of these serious mistakes, be sure to tell your attorney as it could dramatically affect the outcome of your case for the better by resulting in the evidence being suppressed or the charges being dropped altogether.
1) Stopping Someone Without Reasonable Suspicion
Police can’t just pull people over because they feel like it. Instead, they must have some reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed. While this standard is much lower than the probable cause required for an arrest, it is still an important legal component in a DUI case. For example, an officer cannot simply stop someone based on the type of car they drive.
That being said, the rules are different at DUI checkpoints although even then, police must have some type of system to randomize who is stopped at the checkpoint. They still cannot choose to stop someone who would not fit into their randomized system just based on the look of the driver or their vehicle.
2) Improperly Performing A Field Sobriety Test
Field sobriety tests are optional, but many people are unaware of this fact and take the tests anyway. While lawyers tend to advise clients not to take field sobriety tests because they can provide evidence that can be used later in court, if the police improperly perform the test, this evidence will be far less reliable and may even be inadmissible. One of the most common ways police make mistakes when administering these DUI tests is by failing to properly give directions to the test-takers, who then fail only because they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing.
3) Not Warning Suspects About Consequences of Refusing a Chemical Test
California’s implied consent law requires drivers suspected of drunk driving to submit to a chemical test when requested to do so by a police officer. Failing to submit to a chemical test can be used as evidence against you in a criminal DUI case and is grounds for a one year license suspension by the DMV. This is why police are required to read a very specific warning to drivers who are considering not taking a chemical test following a DUI arrest.
If they fail to advise the suspect on the consequences of refusing a chemical test, then this can be used to the driver’s advantage and may allow him to avoid a driver’s license suspension.
4) Failing to Observe a Suspect Before Using a Breathalyzer
The law requires officers watch a suspect for 15 minutes before administering a breathalyzer to ensure they do not vomit, belch, smoke or do another activity that could impact the accuracy of a breath test. Even if the officer did observe the suspect, but failed to note an entry stating when the observation period began, this could bring into question the accuracy of the breathalyzer result.
5) Not Properly Administering the Breath Test
Aside from watching a suspect prior to giving a breathalyzer, there are a lot of procedures that must be followed by someone administering the test. These can include things like ensuring the test has been properly calibrated at regular intervals, that there are no paint or gas fumes in the area and ensuring the test-taker breathes in the proper manner while taking the test.
To further ensure the accuracy of the test, the suspect must submit two breath samples and the results must be acceptably close to one another. If the samples reveal BACs that are too different, they must retest you. This means if one of your breath samples is .09 and the other is .14 and the officer failed to give you another test, this evidence will be considered too unreliable to be held against you and since this is one of the key pieces of evidence in a DUI case, the charges may even be dropped as a result.
6) Not Maintaining a Chain of Custody for a DUI Blood Sample
Just like the breathalyzer, there are many procedures that must be followed when a driver takes a DUI blood test. One of the most important aspects of this process is to ensure that the blood sample is properly stored at all times and that there is full documentation showing every step of the sample’s journey from the time it was collected until it was placed in long term storage. This is because the defendant’s attorney must be legally allowed to have the sample retested at an independent laboratory to verify the accuracy of the results.
If the sample was not properly kept track of, it could have been mixed up with someone else’s blood. Similarly, it could be damaged due to improper storage methods, rendering it useless for retesting purposes. This can provide grounds for suppression of the blood test results, which, if successful, can even result in the charges being dropped in some cases.
7) Taking a Forced Blood Sample Without a Warrant
While officers can take a DUI blood sample from suspects who do not consent to a chemical test, they must obtain a warrant to do so. This is a common practice when it comes to people who pass out and cannot be roused to take a test. That being said, without a warrant, these blood test results are inadmissible as they are considered a violation of the suspect’s 4th Amendment rights. This often is grounds for the case to be dropped.
If you have been charged with a DUI and believe a police officer made one of these mistakes during the arrest, please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation with criminal defense lawyer Peter M. Liss.