While a driver may be clearly intoxicated once police make initial contact with them, it is important to consider whether the police actually had a valid initial reason to stop the suspect.
A driver in Tulsa was stopped after driving in the wrong direction for several miles.
Drunk driver enters highway in the wrong direction
The incident started with officers seeing the suspect begin to drive the wrong way through midtown Tulsa as he made his way onto Interstate 44. They observed him continue in this manner for several miles onto the Broken Arrow Expressway. Police had to stop several other innocent drivers to avoid collisions.
They eventually made contact with the man and he admitted to consuming at least eight drinks before driving. His blood alcohol concentration was 0.23, which is approximately three times the legal limit of .08. He was taken into custody and his car was towed away near Sheridan Street where he was stopped. Police believe he has no prior record or previous DUI offenses.
The traffic stop and information collected afterwards
As a general rule, things like driving the wrong way on a street, going through a red light or stop sign, causing an accident, and speeding are valid reasons for traffic stops. However, officers routinely pull cars over for other reasons that may be improper.
The news story above involved a man who was initially stopped for driving the wrong way. This piece of information is crucial to defense lawyers, because all DUI investigations need to begin with a valid reason for officers to make contact with the suspect. Sometimes, the police make mistakes and use illegal reasons to conduct a traffic stop. When this happens a lawyer can possibly have all of the information gathered after the initial encounter dismissed. As a basic principle of constitutional law, all information that is improperly collected by the government cannot be introduced at trial due to Fourth Amendment protections.
Blood alcohol concentration
Most states in the U.S. now have a legal limit of .08 blood alcohol concentration while driving. There are also laws that will immediately suspend a person’s license if they refuse to take a breath test. It is important to consult with an attorney afterwards, as refusing the test may create a strategic advantage for a defense lawyer. Keep in mind that in most jurisdictions, a person is already under arrest for suspicion of DUI when the breath sample is collected. In this sense, the suspect is only providing the state with evidence if they consent to the test.
Proper calibration of breath test equipment
The machinery that is used for a breath alcohol test is also imperfect. Most departments require regular maintenance on these devices and sometimes they are taken out of service if they do not work properly. Defense attorneys will usually ask for maintenance logs and other pertinent information if it seems that a breath reading is exceptionally high or may be improper. There is also the possibility that moisture from a suspect’s mouth can cause a faulty reading.
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