When a police officer pulls over a motorist for suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she must follow certain protocols. Unfortunately, many drivers are not aware of their rights in this type of traffic stop.
These common errors made by law enforcement during DUI arrest may result in the ultimate dismissal of the case.
Lack of reasonable suspicion
Suspicion of DUI is not sufficient to pull over a motorist. The officer must have reasonable suspicion based on a violation of traffic laws. This could include speeding, reckless driving, weaving between lanes, running a red light or other unsafe actions behind the wheel.
Failure to properly administer field sobriety test
Errors in giving the suspect a field sobriety test can result in a dismissed DUI charge. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration recognizes three official field sobriety tests. The officer must take weather and road conditions into account when administering the test, follow exact protocol and write a detailed report.
Lack of observation before breath test
Before administering a breath test to determine blood alcohol content, the officer must observe the suspect for 15 minutes. If the officer leaves the suspect alone for any reason during that interval, the test results could be invalid.
Failure to read Miranda rights
When an officer arrests a suspect for any reason, he or she must read individuals their Miranda rights. Failure to take this step means any statements made by the suspect are not admissible in court proceedings.
Display of misconduct
Although officers have the power to use force if a suspect is uncooperative, using force when a suspect is cooperating is grounds for a misconduct charge. Officers may not use abusive or harassing language and must remain polite and professional throughout the traffic stop provided the motorist is doing the same.
In North Carolina, DUI penalties for a first offense include a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 30 days and fines up to $4,000. For this reason, drivers must understand and protect their legal rights if law enforcement pulls them over for DUI.