To determine whether a particular driver has been drinking, a police officer must initiate a traffic stop. In order to pull someone over, however, the officer must have a reason, whether the driver was exceeding the speed limit, failed to stop at a stop sign, or had a brake light out. But the legality of this initial stop is essential, because the evidence of the driver's potential intoxication depends on it.
Earlier this month, a police officer was on patrol during the early morning hours in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. The officer allegedly spotted an SUV traveling down the street without its headlights on. The officer then reportedly observed the vehicle cross the center line and return to its correct lane, after which it increased its speed and turned the wrong way onto a one-way street.
The officer pulled the car over and approached the driver's window. As the officer was standing there, he said that the driver had what appeared to be marijuana on her clothing. The officer also claimed that he could see a bag of marijuana in plain sight inside the woman's purse. The woman allegedly told the officer that she had been smoking marijuana and had had two shots of alcohol before driving that night.
After observing the marijuana in the car, the officer initiated a search of the vehicle, which reportedly turned up a loaded .22 caliber pistol. The driver was administered Breathalyzer and field sobriety tests, which she failed.
When drivers are charged with drunk driving, it is important to see whether law enforcement's actions conformed to their duties under the law from the time of the traffic stop to the time of arrest. Any violations of a defendant's constitutional rights could mean that some evidence is inadmissible in a court of law.
Source: Wauwatosa Patch, "Woman Faces Gun Charge After Drunk Driving Stop," Joe Petrie, Sept. 18, 2012