July 14, 2009 By Wallin & Klarich

What an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Can Do for You

An officer must see an objective violation of the law, or have reasonable suspicion that a crime is about to occur or has occurred, before an officer may detain an individual. Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 116 S. Ct. 1769, 135 L. Ed. 2d 89 (1996). In Whren, the United States’ Supreme Court held that a police officer’s subjective intentions do not defeat the lawfulness of a detention based upon probable cause to believe that a motorist has violated a traffic code.

An officer’s subjective opinion that an individual’s driving is unusual, does not justify a detention in the absence of objective probable cause that there was a violation of the vehicle code. E.g. Taylor v. Department of Motor Vehicles, (1995) 36 Cal. App. 4th 812, 42 Cal. Rptr. 2d 758. In Taylor, the Court held that the actions of a seventeen-year-old who was driving a pickup truck at midnight on a Friday, who cut sharply behind a police officer while yelling from the vehicle, did not provide objective justification for a detention.

The Court noted that a sharp but entirely legal turn and a yell from within a vehicle do not indicate that the driver is under the influence.

The law is clear. An officer may not initiate a traffic stop unless that officer sees an objective violation of the Vehicle Code. Even if driving is “unusual,” as was the case in Taylor, an officer may not initiate a stop unless there is an actual violation of the law.

If you have been arrested for allegations of driving under the influence, immediately contact Wallin & Klarich for a free case evaluation. A knowledgeable and experienced San Diego DUI defense lawyer at Wallin & Klarich will assess the validity of the arresting officer’s reason for initiating the traffic stop. You can reach us 24/7 at 1-888-280-6839, or visit us online at www.wklawdui.com.

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