The U.S. Constitution and the California constitutions have protections for citizens. These protections make sure that citizens and even visitors to California are not the victims of unlawful use of police authority. One way a law enforcement officer can misuse their authority is to arrest someone without probable cause.
Sometimes, police officers like to say that they just know how to do things properly. They might say that they just know when a person should be arrested. They might say that can just tell when someone is intoxicated or over the legal limit. They sometimes try to say that they should just be allowed to trust their instincts when it comes to whether to arrest someone for drunk driving.
Fortunately, California law requires the police to be able to articulate probable cause to make an arrest. That means that they have to be able to tell the court and the jury the grounds that they had in order to make a lawful arrest. This includes both having a lawful reason to stop the vehicle and probable cause to believe that a person committed the crime.
One way that police officers get probable cause to make an arrest is by asking you for admissions. They might ask you where you’re coming from. They might ask you how much you’ve had to drink that night. Other questions might include whether you feel too drunk to drive and when you had your last drink. You don’t have to answer these questions.
Whatever you say to the police, they can use it against you to justify your arrest. If you challenge your arrest, they can go tell the judge that you told them that you drank six beers or that you told them that you didn’t feel safe to drive. These admissions can be devastating when it comes to justifying your arrest to the court. In addition to being evidence to justify your arrest, these are also statements that the state’s attorney can admit to prove your guilt to the jury.
Another way that law enforcement provides a person’s guilt is by their own observations. Often times, a law enforcement investigation into drunk driving begins with the officer looking at the person driving. They might see the driver weave over the center line. They might see the driver traveling at very low speeds in an area where the speed limit is much higher. They might observe erratic driving.
These observations can justify law enforcement stopping your vehicle to investigate further. It can also justify the police making an arrest in your case. Sometimes, law enforcement relies on their own observations and memory. In other cases, they can get a dash cam video or any other recording that’s available in order to show the court how you were driving before your arrest.
In addition to making observations of your driving, law enforcement can also look at your appearance. If you slur your speech, they’ll make a note of it in their report. If your eyes are bloodshot and glassy, that’s evidence of your intoxication that they can use to justify an arrest. They’ll note if you fumble around too long to find your driver’s license.
Then, their observations move on to field sobriety tests. They might ask you step out of your car. A common field sobriety test is the horizontal gaze nystagmus. This tests whether your eyes can smoothly track a target object. If your eyes jerk, the police see that as a sign of intoxication.
The officer might also ask you to stand on one leg. They might also ask you to walk and turn around. How you perform on these tests can determine whether law enforcement can justify an arrest. Of course, the officer has to give you the instructions properly, or the test results may be invalid.
Finally, law enforcement may ask you to take a breath alcohol screening test on the side of the road. They can use the results of this test to justify an arrest. However, the police don’t always calibrate their testing machines at the appropriate intervals, so the results may not be invalid.
You can challenge the charges against you if you feel law enforcement didn’t have probable cause to arrest you. If you do, the law enforcement officer has to come to court in order to explain their actions to the court. If the court agrees that the officer didn’t have probable cause to arrest you, they can throw out the evidence against you in the case.
When a law enforcement officer investigates a drunk driving offense, they have to have probable cause to make an arrest. They can’t just tell the court that they’ve made hundreds of drunk driving arrests, and they know you’re guilty just like everyone else. Instead, they have to have a reasonable suspicion that they can articulate in order to prove that they have constitutional grounds to make an arrest.
In order to make sure they can justify their arrest, there are certain things that law enforcement officers look for. They check for admissions that you might make about what you’ve had to drink. They might observe your driving. In addition to these things, law enforcement might build their case for your arrest based on field sobriety tests.
Field sobriety tests are things that law enforcement can ask you to do at the side of the road in order to determine whether you’ve had to much to drink. Some of these tests are standardized. That means law enforcement agencies have studied them to prove that they’re reliable to help determine a person’s level of intoxication. One example of these tests is the walk and turn test.
To execute the walk and turn test, law enforcement asks you to wait while they give you instructions. They tell you to walk a certain number of steps with your heels to toes in a line. Then you’re supposed to make a sharp turn and walk back a certain number of steps in the opposite direction.
While you do this test, law enforcement officers look for indicators of intoxication. They look for whether you sway your arms to help you keep your balance. They look for whether you walk heel to toe or leave gaps between your steps. They see if you take the correct number of steps before you turn around.
A similar test is called the one leg stand. This is a test where the officer asks you to stand on one leg. You’re supposed to stand with your arms completely by your side. You’re supposed to put one foot in the air and the other on the ground while you count for a certain number of seconds.
While you do this test, the law enforcement officer looks to see if you’re able to hold your balance. They look to see if you swing your arms. They check to see if you count to the number that they instructed you to count to.
Despite what you may have heard, field sobriety tests are not pass or fail. Instead, they give the law enforcement officer indicators about your level of intoxication. If law enforcement believes that the tests show that you’re over the legal limit, they might continue their investigation.
The purpose of field sobriety tests is to help the law enforcement officer determine if there’s enough evidence to arrest you. They also help the officer decide if there’s enough evidence to give you a preliminary alcohol screening. This is helpful so that officers don’t make false arrests. Law enforcement officers can use this information in order to develop probable cause to justify an arrest.
Even though law enforcement officers usually have special training to teach them how to conduct field sobriety tests properly, they don’t always use this training the way that they should. When they don’t conduct field sobriety tests properly, the results of their tests could be invalid. Law enforcement officers know that they’re supposed to use all of the standardized field sobriety tests together. This includes the one leg stand, the walk and turn and the horizontal gaze nystagmus.
When they choose not to use the standardized tests, their test results might not be accurate. Sometimes, law enforcement officers make up other tests that they think help them determine a driver’s intoxication. These tests aren’t verified. You can question the officer about why they didn’t use their training if they try to use other field sobriety tests.
If law enforcement doesn’t conduct a proper investigation, their grounds to stop your vehicle may not be lawful. If that’s the case, the court might suppress the evidence they gathered after their arrest. Usually, that means the state’s entire case fails. That makes it critical to work with an experienced attorney in order to determine whether you can challenge the arrest in your case. If there’s no probable cause for your arrest, you may win your case before it even heads to trial.