Recognizing Unlawful Conduct During a DUI Stop

Posted by James Ferguson | Nov 15, 2020 | 0 Comments

Drunk drivers are, in theory, easy for law enforcement officers to detect because these drivers usually drive erratically. Even though people in the act of DUI are easily detectable, some of these stops by law enforcement are still unlawful. The unlawful nature of a DUI stop can rest in the officer's reasoning behind pulling the driver over, or how the officer conducts a search or roadside testing during the stop. Citizens should be well-versed in these topics if they are ever pulled over by the police for suspected DUI. Any mistakes made by police during the process can become the basis of a viable DUI defense.

Your DUI Stop was Unlawful

All states are bound by the Fourth Amendment, which grants individuals protections against unreasonable detention by the police. Probable cause should inform a law enforcement officer's decision to stop a suspected drunk motorist. If an individual is stopped and charged with a DUI without having displayed any evident signs that would necessitate a stop (i.e., serving or committing a traffic violation), then the basis of the charge is unlawful under the Fourth Amendment. This could be grounds for a defense against your DUI charge.

After the stop has been made, any search of the individual's person or vehicle must be also informed by probable cause. In Mississippi and all other states, an unreasonable search and seizure is done without a search warrant and without probable cause. Probable cause is the “test” created by the Fourth Amendment that determines whether an officer had the right to treat you as a suspected perpetrator of a crime. Probable cause is defined as a reasonable basis for believing that a crime may have been committed (for an arrest) or when evidence of the crime is present in the place to be searched (for a search). I

In a DUI search situation, probable cause may exist when the officer has reason to believe that the motorist is under the influence of a controlled substance. This can include the smell of alcohol emanating from the vehicle, empty bottles in the car, or physical signs of inebriation such as slurred speech or slowed movement. Any officer who cannot properly articulate the probable cause leading to a search of a person or property does not have the requisite cause for the search.

Yes, You can Refuse a Chemical Test

In Mississippi, individuals suspected of DUI can refuse a blood, urine or breathalyzer test. However, this refusal does not come without consequences. A person who is suspected of DUI and refuses to take a chemical test will automatically have their license suspended for 90 days to one year. Unfortunately, individuals who are stopped may not be knowledgeable about their right to refuse a chemical test. Therefore, any law enforcement officer who deceives a suspected DUI driver to believe that submitting to the test is mandatory is behaving unlawfully.

Let Us Help with Your DUI Case
If you have reason to believe that law enforcement has acted unlawfully in your DUI stop, please call us now. Attorney James Robert Ferguson is a seasoned DUI attorney with experience in Fourth Amendment and consent violations during DUI stops. Contact us to determine your rights in the matter.

See related blog posts:
Mississippi’s Rules on DUI Blood Tests
The Consequences of Refusing a Chemical Test

About the Author

James Ferguson

I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. During college, I studied at East Tennessee State University, where I received a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice, which I then followed up with a Master's in Criminology from the University of Memphis. Before beginning my legal career, I worked as a Project Coordinator at the University of Memphis, where I assisted in training law enforcement officers in the Memphis Model of Crisis Intervention Training. The purpose of the project was to provide officers with the tools to deal with citizens in a state of mental crisis. I then went on to study law at the Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson. During law school, I clerked with Victor W. Carmody, Jr., the lawyer who wrote the book on DUI law in Mississippi. I am currently licensed to practice law in both Tennessee and Mississippi, and spend a majority of my time traveling the highways and biways of Mississippi defending those who have been charged with a DUI.


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