Police officers make mistakes. Some police mistakes could lead to the court dismissing DUI charges. Below are the most common law enforcement errors and omissions that could make a potential drunk driving conviction disappear.
Pennsylvania has strict guidelines for DUI checkpoints or roadblocks. A traffic stop and subsequent DUI arrest may be dismissed for checkpoints that do not meet the following requirements:
The police department in charge of the checkpoint must alert the public in advance. This public alert might include road signs, social media updates, and notices in print and digital newspapers.
Individual police officers may not create a DUI checkpoint. The police department’s administration must schedule roadblocks and pursue approval through appropriate channels.
Police cannot randomly select a location for a DUI checkpoint. Location and times should be based on a history of previous drunk driving accidents.
The law enforcement agency must use an objective standard as criteria for a DUI stop. Individual officers cannot create their standards.
DUI checkpoints are brief stops only. Officers are not allowed to detain motorists longer than necessary.
Drivers are legally permitted to avoid a DUI checkpoint, provided that they do not commit a moving violation. Police officers cannot stop or chase a car based solely on the driver’s action to avoid a DUI roadblock.
The Constitution protects you from unreasonable searches. Police officers are limited to specific conditions in which they may legally search your vehicle during a DUI stop:
Probable cause means that an officer reasonably suspects that you are intoxicated or impaired. Certain characteristics are associated with a drunk driver, such as:
While you cannot prevent an officer from searching your car under probable cause, an unlawful search could lead to a dismissal of a DUI.
An officer who sees a liquor bottle from outside the vehicle may search your car. However, police cannot ask you to exit the car and rummage around until they find something.
After an arrest, the police have the right to search your car or the nearby vicinity. However, there may be errors within the arrest or booking process.
Police can search your car with your consent. Any reputable DUI defense attorney will encourage you to withhold consent for a police search.
Police officers must inform you of the following at the time of your arrest:
If an officer fails to read the Miranda rights, refuses to let you call an attorney, or violates any other constitutional right, you might have grounds for dismissal.
Breathalyzer tests are the most common method to determine if someone is legally intoxicated. In Pennsylvania, you are intoxicated if you have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher.
However, breath tests are not always reliable. Several types of errors regarding DUI chemical tests might render a drunk driving charge invalid.
Police officers must complete training to administer a DUI test correctly. You may ask for proof that the officer who conducted your test received proper guidance for that breathalyzer device. Errors in administering the test frequently occur.
Any deviation from the correct setting or improper calibration could raise questions about a DUI test result. You may ask for documentation to check that the device meets all calibration, testing, and maintenance requirements.
All DUI test results require a precise chain of custody. Blood and urine samples are particularly vulnerable to contamination if officers do not follow the proper guidelines. Chemical tests exposed to temperature extremes could be considered invalid.
Pennsylvania does not require motorists to comply with field sobriety tests, such as standing on one foot or following an object with your eyes. Some individuals fail these tests due to medical conditions that affect their balance and coordination.
It is possible to dismiss a DUI charge based on a poorly administered field sobriety test. The charges could also be dropped if an individual provides medical documentation that casts doubt on the test’s accuracy (such as proof of a neurological condition).
Police reports with incorrect information or inconsistencies with the officer’s testimony or deposition could result in a dismissal of charges. Misconduct, such as lying on a police report, is also grounds for dismissal.
Sometimes the court will dismiss a DUI charge if the arresting officer fails to appear in court. At the very least, an attorney can ask for a continuance to further build your defense.
Police officers are only human: they make mistakes. Sometimes, these errors can help get a DUI charge dismissed. An experienced DUI defense attorney can evaluate your case and determine if there is potential for dismissal.
By Michael Skinner |
25 Jul, 2023
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