Although police officers may say that they are pulling you over for texting while driving, speeding, crossing a yellow line, running a stop sign, driving in an erratic manner, or for some other minor traffic offense, the more likely reason for the stop is suspected impaired driving. In other words, the officer is really pulling you over because he or she believes that you are operating your vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These types of traffic stops, called pretextual stops, are valid and constitutional.
DUI checkpoints, also known as sobriety checkpoints, are also constitutional. It is important to realize that while these kinds of traffic stops are legal, your constitutional rights still apply.
If you have been charged with a DUI in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, you need legal representation by an experienced DUI criminal defense attorney. Brian J. Zeiger of The Zeiger Firm has the knowledge and expertise to help you obtain a favorable result in your DUI case.
Probable Cause for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Vehicle Searches
Unlawful searches and seizures are prohibited by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. A police officer may not constitutionally search your vehicle unless there is probable cause to do so. This usually means that the officer believes it is more likely than not that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol while behind the wheel of your vehicle.
An automatic search of a driver’s vehicle without probable cause for the search is unconstitutional. Probable cause that a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol might include one or more of the following:
- Alcohol smell
- Slurred speech
- Observing drugs or alcohol in the vehicle in plain view (i.e. without moving or altering anything inside the vehicle)
- Drug dog alerting to the presence of drugs in the vehicle
An officer may also search a vehicle if an exception to probable cause exists. One of the most common exceptions to probable cause is when a driver expressly consents to a search of the vehicle. An officer may also search the driver’s vehicle if he or she has a warrant. Any evidence obtained following an unlawful search or seizure may be suppressed at trial.
Questioning by a Police Officer at a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Traffic Stop
During a traffic stop and sometimes afterward, police officers will ask the driver a series of questions. By law, the driver is not required to answer these questions and may request that an attorney is present during any and all questioning. This legal right against self-incrimination stems from the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
If the driver requests an attorney, he or she cannot be forced to answer a police officer’s questions until after an attorney is made available and is present for the questioning. Any evidence obtained as a result of improper police questioning or interrogation techniques may be suppressed at trial.
Contact a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you believe your legal rights were violated at a traffic stop or sobriety checkpoint, it is essential that you have experienced legal representation on your side throughout your case. Attorney Brian J. Zeiger of The Zeiger Firm has the legal knowledge, skills, and experience to help you achieve a favorable result in your case. You can contact him at 215-546-0340, or contact him online for a free initial consultation.