If you are arrested for DUI in West Chester, Pennsylvania, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution may provide you with a defense. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. This means that a police officer must have a warrant to detain and/or search the person and property of a suspect except under certain conditions. For police officers detaining DUI suspects without a warrant, the Fourth Amendment requires reasonable suspicion or exigent circumstances.

What Is Reasonable Suspicion?

Reasonable suspicion means that a police officer making a DUI search must have a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed or evidence of a crime may be found in the searched property. If you are stopped for DUI, the police officer must reasonably believe you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or that evidence of alcohol or drugs may be found in your vehicle. If the police officer does not have a basis to form such a belief, then the police officer is violating your rights under the Fourth Amendment by detaining you and searching your vehicle.

What are some common examples of circumstances that give rise to reasonable suspicion in a DUI traffic stop?

  • Swerving in and out of traffic lanes
  • Not following the posted speed limits
  • Erratic driving
  • Intoxicated demeanor of the driver
  • Alcohol odor

What Are Exigent Circumstances?

The second factor that may lead to a warrantless DUI traffic stop by a police officer is the existence of exigent circumstances. Exigent circumstances exist when your actions have placed people in immediate danger, when evidence may be imminently destroyed, or when a suspect may imminently escape. If an arresting officer cannot point to the likely occurrence of any of these situations as a result of your driving, and there is no reasonable suspicion, then the police officer did not have the right to detain you at a DUI stop.

Effect of Fourth Amendment Violations on DUI Charges

If a police officer conducting a DUI traffic stop does not have reasonable suspicion to detain you or exigent circumstances do not exist, then the court should suppress evidence obtained during the traffic stop. Suppressed evidence cannot be used to convict you in a court of law.

Without evidence, the prosecutor may have no case, and may drop the charges. Furthermore, if your Fourth Amendment rights were violated, you can even bring an action against the police officer, under what is known as a Bivens action, due to the police officer’s illegal search and seizure.

Speak with an attorney if you were arrested for a DUI to see if your Fourth Amendment rights were violated and whether you have a claim against the police.

Assert Your Fourth Amendment Rights: Call a DUI Defense Attorney at Skinner Law Firm Today

The U.S. Constitution grants you the right to not be unlawfully detained and searched. If you were arrested at a DUI traffic stop, call the Skinner Law Firm at (610) 436-1410 today or contact us online for a free consultation. Find out whether your Fourth Amendment rights were violated and whether the evidence that the police are relying on can be suppressed.

Article Author

Michael J. Skinner, the founder of Skinner Law Firm LLC, is a former prosecutor with the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.

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