Police Limitations During a DUI Stop

You may be aware of your constitutional rights protecting you from police search and seizure without good reason. In other words, a police officer can't stop you on the street and pat you down just to make sure you aren't carrying any contraband. Likewise, police may not enter your home or search your car without your permission unless they have a warrant. The law also places very specific limits on what police may do when they pull you over for DUI.

A routine traffic stop cannot turn into a fishing expedition for Wisconsin law enforcement. Just because your tail light is out does not give officers reason to believe you are intoxicated behind the wheel. There must be something else that arouses the suspicion of an officer before he or she can begin conducting the familiar sobriety tests.

Probable cause

Police suspicion that you have been drinking often begins before they engage their flashing lights. In fact, this is the first place a skilled attorney may look when building a defense, because an officer who has no cause to pull you over for DUI has no reason to charge you with that offense. Some signs that may prompt police to make a traffic stop include the following:

  • Your car crosses the center line or drifts in and out of your lane.
  • You keep hitting the brakes for no apparent reason.
  • You drive too slowly or unpredictably.
  • Your car stops in the road without warning.
  • You come close to hitting other vehicles.

Any of these or other actions may raise suspicion in an officer that you may have committed a crime, which is all he or she needs to pull you over to investigate. However, it is not probable cause, which police need to make an arrest. Probable cause comes from the results of the field sobriety tests and breath test to which the officer may ask you to submit if other signs confirm the suspicion that you have been drinking.

On the other hand, the officer may stop you because of that broken tail light and smell alcohol on your breath or see a beer can in your cup holder. This would also be a valid reason to ask you to step out of the car and submit to FSTs. At any time during a traffic stop, your rights may be in jeopardy. Having an attorney review your case as soon as possible after your arrest may allow for the construction of a strong defense against charges filed after an unlawful DUI stop.