Being pulled over by the police can be a scary situation. You see the lights flashing behind you, but you know you were not speeding or disobeying traffic laws. Next, they have you step out of the car and try to get you to do a sobriety test.
This can be frustrating because you knew you were not drinking alcohol. You should know your rights in this situation. Can a police officer assume you were intoxicated without proof? The answer is not always straightforward, but there are some things you should know and how a Los Angeles DUI lawyer can help.
Types of Evidence a Police Officer Needs for a DUI Arrest
For a DUI arrest to hold up in court, the officer needs probable cause to believe you were intoxicated. Probable cause is more than just a hunch or gut feeling. It requires specific evidence and facts to prove you were under the influence.
Examples of valid probable cause for a DUI include:
- Failing field sobriety tests like balancing on one leg or walking a straight line
- Slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or the smell of alcohol
- Empty beer bottles or drugs in plain sight
- Admiring to drinking or taking drugs recently
- Dangerous, erratic driving consistent with impairment
When the Police Officer does Not Have Probable Cause
If the officer does not have solid proof you are intoxicated, they technically cannot arrest you for DUI. However, that does not always stop them from trying to build a case against you. Some questionable tactics police might use include:
- Badgering you to admit you were drinking or taking drugs
- Demanding you take field sobriety tests even without cause
- Threatening to arrest you if you do not comply with tests
- Claiming your “behavior” or appearance is suspicious
You can refuse field sobriety tests or answer questions without probable cause. Politely state that you do not consent to any tests and would like to be on your way unless you are detained or arrested. The police officer might hassle you, but do not let them pressure you into potentially self-incriminating actions without justification. It is important to always hold your ground.
You Have the Right to Refuse a Breathalyzer
The officer will likely ask you to take a BAC test with a roadside breathalyzer. You have the legal right to refuse in Los Angeles if you are 21 and over and do not have any previous DUIs. However, there are consequences, including:
- Losing your license for up to three years
- Going to jail for an extra 2,4 or 10 days.
- Allowing the refusal to be used as evidence against you
Refusing might be in your best interest if the officer truly had no valid reason to suspect DUI. The lack of other evidence could result in the case being dismissed. There is no universal answer, so think carefully before consenting. If you refuse, be polite but firm and say you are exercising your right.
Medical Conditions that May Mimic Intoxication
Different medical conditions could make someone seem like they have been drinking, and with the right evidence, a DUI lawyer in Los Angeles can help you fight this. Some of the conditions are:
Unstable blood sugar levels lead to disorientation, poor balance, and slurred speech. These are red flags for cops but actually could be signs of diabetes. Breath may smell fruity and sweet, incorrectly thought to be alcohol.
Diseases like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and Tourette’s impair motor skills and speech. Involuntary tremors, spasms, or lack of coordination can seem like you are driving under the influence. Expert testimony on your condition can dispute these assumptions.
Insomnia and sleep apnea result in chronic sleep deprivation. The drowsiness and slowed reactions caused by lack of sleep could lead an officer to suspect drunk driving. While nobody should drive if they are not rested, this should still be a known reason that can get someone falsely accused of a DUI.
Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint
DUI checkpoints allow officers to stop drivers without individualized suspicion to check for impairment. While potentially catching drunk drivers, these roadblocks also subject innocent citizens to questioning and examination without justification.
If suddenly directed into a checkpoint, knowing your rights is vital. The law protects against unreasonable search and seizure, even during DUI stops.
For example, the police cannot prolong a checkpoint stop after identifying you are not impaired without cause. You also have the right not to answer questions without probable cause for suspicion.
How Dashcam Footage Can Help Strengthen Your Case
Dashboard cameras are the perfect way to prove your innocence in court. When you are stopped, the police officer has to use his or her judgment. This can be wrong; having the dashcam helps the court see what happened.
When a police officer pulls you over, they take note of your appearance, behavior, and speech patterns and make inferences about your sobriety level. However, sometimes these judgments can be exaggerated or influenced by bias. The dashcam video may show you safely pulling over, exiting the vehicle, walking steadily, and speaking clearly without slurring.
Dashcam videos create reasonable doubt about the officer’s perceptions and accusations. Rather than a subjective story, the footage provides an impartial incident record from the dashboard camera’s perspective. This evidence may convince a judge or jury that the officer assumed you were impaired.
Let Us Help You Protect Your Rights
If you were wrongly accused of DUI, the most important thing is seeking legal representation. A Los Angeles DUI defense attorney is vital when fighting these charges. We know how to contest the claims about your apparent intoxication that was not backed by evidence.
It is not just a ticket you have to worry about; a DUI is a major mark on your license and could affect many aspects of your life, such as your career. Our team is eager to help you fight back against a false or exaggerated claim. Contact us to schedule your consultation so you know what step to take next.