DUI Traffic Stop Defense
The traffic stop is the time during which the police decide if they have probable cause to arrest for you drunk driving, take you to the station, and make you blow into a machine that measures the concentration of alcohol in your bloodstream. If the results come back at .08% or higher, they can arrest you for your driving under the influence (DUI). The traffic stop is, therefore, a critical stage in your DUI arrest and potential conviction. It is also the stage during which many defenses to the charge might appear in your favor.
Elsewhere on our website, we talk about what to do if you get pulled over and what your rights are during a traffic stop. Here we want to point out that the police must have a valid reason to pull you over in the first place. Many defendants, and many defense attorneys, take it for granted that the police had sufficient cause to make the stop, but at Meldon Law, our seasoned Florida DUI defense attorneys know that might not be the case. If the stop was improper, so was the arrest and the breath test and everything that flowed from it.
Learn more below about DUI traffic stops and the legal issues they raise, and contact Meldon Law if you’ve been arrested for DUI in Florida. We’ll take the time to look at all aspects of your case and let you know your options for getting the best outcome available.
Why Did the Police Pull You Over?
When you get pulled over, the police might ask you if you know why they stopped you. They’ll make it sound perfectly natural like you did something wrong, but you might not have done anything that was technically illegal or necessarily justified a stop. Unless they have probable cause to believe you violated a traffic law or can articulate a reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred, they shouldn’t be able to pull you over. This is a free society, and the police can’t just stop people at random and fish around for criminal activity. If they are going to stop you, they need a good reason. Here are some of the common excuses they give for a traffic stop, and reasons why their justifications aren’t always good enough.
You were weaving in your lane
Florida law requires drivers to drive “as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane” and not to move out of their lane until they have first ascertained they can do so safely. There is no law that says weaving in your lane is illegal, and even weaving out of your lane might not be illegal if no other cars were around and the action was not unsafe. There are lots of reasons why you might weave in your lane that have nothing to do with alcohol impairment and that don’t break any laws. Once the police start following you, nervous drivers might make more mistakes precisely because they are being followed. Whether weaving was severe or pervasive enough to warrant a traffic stop is a question of fact, and whether a stop is reasonable in this instance can differ from case to case.
You failed to use your turn signal
Are you required by law to use your turn signal to change lanes on the road or highway? Florida law says so, “in the event any other vehicle may be affected by the movement.” This seems to say that turn signals are required to alert other drivers of your intention. If no drivers were impacted by your failure to use your signal, did you break the law? And if you weren’t breaking the law, are there any number of reasons you might not have used your signal that have nothing to do with alcohol impairment? The failure to use a turn signal is not sufficient cause to be pulled over in every instance.
You have a broken headlight or taillight
You might be nervous about driving around with a broken headlight or taillight until you get a chance to get it fixed, or you might not even know about it until someone else tells you, but either way, you might not be breaking the law. Florida law requires two working headlights or taillights, but if your car is equipped with four lights and only one lamp is out, you aren’t violating the law. The police might be looking for any excuse to pull you over, but they might get this one wrong in your case.
You were speeding
Of course, the police can pull you over for speeding, and during that stop, they might develop enough probable cause to arrest you for drunk driving. But like everything else, the police must have probable cause you were speeding before they can stop you. They need more than a hunch or a general feeling you were speeding. They should be able to prove how fast you were going, how they determined your speed, and what the applicable speed limit was on the stretch of road you were traveling. Without this proof, the initial stop might have been improper.
The list goes on
There are countless other ways police might make an invalid or questionable traffic stop, such as pulling you over for making a wide turn or some other maneuver that wasn’t illegal or unsafe, stopping you based on an anonymous tip without independent corroborating evidence, and more. The traffic stop is a critical part of a DUI case that should not be overlooked when crafting your defense; the evidence might be there to break the prosecutor’s case at its earliest point.
Get the DUI Defense You Deserve
The Florida DUI defense attorneys at Meldon Law leave no stone unturned in their quest to provide a strong defense for their clients. A robust defense is a critical component of our criminal justice system, it is something you are entitled to under the Constitution, and it is something we are committed to giving you. Call Meldon Law if you’ve been arrested for DUI in Florida, and let’s see if you have a good defense against the offense you are being charged with.