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Constitutional Issues in Alexandria DUI Cases

Sometimes, constitutional rights are violated during traffic and DUI stops. In order for evidence to be admitted in a court case, these rights must be upheld at all times during the investigation, from the point the car was pulled over, to the point when an arrest is made. If any of these rights are violated, any evidence found cannot be admitted, and the case could be dismissed.

Should someone believe their constitutional rights have been violated, it is important they get in touch with an experienced Alexandria DUI lawyer as quickly as possible to discuss their case.

Fourth Amendment Protections in DUI Cases

The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. In DUI cases, it provides limited circumstances for when the police can stop a vehicle. If they did not have reasonable, articulable suspicion to do so, then it was an illegal stop and any evidence found as a result could be suppressed at trial and potentially result in a dismissal.

Additionally, the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable, unlawful arrest. The police may not have probable cause to arrest someone after an investigation. Therefore, all the evidence disclosed from an illegal arrest can be suppressed at trial, meaning that it is not admitted at trial and cannot be used against a person. An experienced DUI attorney in Alexandria will make sure to bring up questions constitutionality with respect to the Fourth Amendment when defending clients in court. 

Search and Seizure in Alexandria

A search happens any time the police search a vehicle, the clothes someone is wearing, or a house. They are performing some investigatory technique that involves invading someone’s property or their person; that is a search. A seizure is any time a person is stopped and are not free to go. There are two different types of seizures:

  • Temporary detention. In this case, the person detained is not free to go, but is not under arrest.
  • Arrest. This requires a higher level of suspicion by the police. In any traffic case, the person is going to be detained, but this does not necessarily mean they are under arrest. If the police have probable cause for arrest, then they will do so. Both of those are seizures for purposes of the Fourth Amendment, and there are different levels of suspicion or probable cause they must have to effectuate those two types of seizures.

Unreasonable Search or Seizure

The law in the Fourth Amendment defining unreasonable searches has been in existence ever since the Constitution was put in place. The Fourth Amendment says there shall be no unreasonable searches or seizures. Essentially an unreasonable search or seizure is one that is done without probable cause to believe a crime has been committed or to believe that there is contraband on your person.

If police search you without having probable cause to believe you have contraband, then that can be an unreasonable search. If they arrest you for committing a crime without probable cause, then that can be an unreasonable arrest.

Reasonable Suspicion

The Constitution applies in every arrest in America because someone is being deprived of their freedom. An attorney handling a DUI case in Alexandria will first look for whether there was reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop someone’s vehicle. In order to legally stop a person’s car, the police must have that suspicion. Otherwise, the stop is illegal and all the evidence disclosed from that stop does not come in at trial.

In this case, an Alexandria DUI attorney will be looking for evidence that the police did not have reasonable suspicion to pull the vehicle over. For instance, either the person did not commit a traffic offense, or their driving behavior was not enough to give the police reasonable suspicion that they were under the influence.

Probable Cause

The next place the Constitution comes into play in a DUI case in Alexandria is whether the police had probable cause to arrest someone. Oftentimes, the argument from the defense is that they did not. If they did not have probable cause for arrest, then any evidence disclosed from that unlawful arrest is not admissible at trial, which could be a benefit to the case.

They need to show a probable cause to search, meaning that they had reasonable facts in their possession to warrant an objective police officer to believe that the person or object searched contained the contraband for which they were searching. That is what they need to show for probable cause to search.

For an arrest, they need to be aware of facts that are sufficient to lead an ordinary officer of their experience to believe that the person has committed a crime, and then they can make an arrest. These are very nonspecific, subjective terms and the courts differ on what is probable cause from case to case. It really depends on what the police officer knew, when they knew it, and how they are able to articulate that in court.

Fifth and Sixth Amendment Rights

The last place the Constitution applies is in custodial interrogation. This is where Miranda rights come into play. If the police were asking someone questions while they were in custody, it is a custodial interrogation and the police must read them their Miranda rights. If the person requests an attorney at that point, or are adamant that they remain silent, the police must stop the questioning.

An attorney must be retained and brought over before the police continue asking their questions. This is the Fifth Amendment privilege against incrimination and the Sixth Amendment right to an attorney.

Other Constitutional Issues in Alexandria DUI Cases

The Constitution really comes into play any time that Alexandria police officers want to stop, seize, search, or question someone or something. If your car is stopped, they must have reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop it. If they arrest you, they must have probable cause to arrest you. If they search your car, your person, or anything else, they must have probable cause to believe that they are going to find contraband.

The Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination comes into play when they start to ask you questions while you are in custody. If they are doing that, they will have to read you your Miranda warnings. These are the main areas where the Constitution does come into play.

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