The legality of a DUI arrest in California hinges on the presence of probable cause. Law enforcement officers must have a reasonable belief that a driver is under the influence before making an arrest.
If the initial traffic stop lacks a valid reason, such as erratic driving or a traffic violation, the entire arrest may be illegal.
1. Subjectivity and interpretation
Erratic driving is a common justification for initiating a traffic stop. However, the subjectivity in assessing what constitutes erratic behavior raises concerns about the potential for false pretenses. What one officer may perceive as erratic driving might seem different to another officer. This subjectivity leaves room for legal challenges, as the justification for the stop can be questionable based on the officer’s individual interpretation.
2. Selective enforcement
Officers often cite alleged traffic violations, such as failing to signal or making an incomplete stop, for a traffic stop leading to a DUI arrest. Yet, the selective enforcement of these violations can be a point of contention.
Evidence shows that many law enforcement officers disproportionately target certain individuals or vehicles. Officers may have stopped you not out of genuine concern for public safety but for other factors such as your race.
3. Pretextual stops
California has a DUI arrest rate of 455 per 100,000 licensed drivers. Not all of these arrests are legitimate. Pretextual stops occur when law enforcement uses a minor traffic violation as a pretext to investigate other potential offenses, such as DUI. While the courts recognize the legality of traffic stops for legitimate violations, using minor infractions as a pretext for a broader investigation raises questions about the sincerity of the initial stop. Challenging the legitimacy of a pretextual stop can be a strategic approach for contesting the legality of a subsequent DUI arrest.
4. Miranda rights violations
Law enforcement officers must inform individuals of their Miranda rights upon arrest. Failure to do so can jeopardize the admissibility of any statements a person makes during questioning.
By critically examining the basis of the traffic stop, individuals can explore avenues to challenge the validity of the entire arrest process.