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Lawful Vehicle Stops in Alabama

If the police acquire a valid warrant, they have the right to stop your vehicle and search it.  However, even without such a warrant, a police officer may stop a vehicle if he believes there is “probable cause” that the driver has been driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  This means that the officer may arrest somebody based on the facts and circumstances surrounding the situation if the officer feels there is probable cause of a DUI violation. The officer can stop a vehicle if there are specific and articulable facts present along with the officer’s rational inference based on those facts that the driver is driving under the influence. For example, if it is 3:00 AM and the driver is weaving in and out of the lane, those are specific and articulable facts. Based on those facts, the officer can make a rational inference that the driver is driving under the influence. It does not matter if the driver is actually driving under the influence or not, just as long as the officer can make a rational inference that he is.  If an officer pulls over a driver and the driver fails a sobriety test, the officer may arrest the driver not on probable cause, but rather because the officer has actual evidence of a crime having been committed (driving under the influence of alcohol).

Regardless of the violations of the defendant, it is the duty of the police to protect constitutional rights in this arena, such as the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.  A court might well throw out a case, cause of action, or certain evidence if the defendant’s constitutional rights are violated at any point during the arrest and arraignment process.  There are also other mistakes police can make that could potentially make a vehicle stop unlawful.  For example, the police must read the accused his Miranda rights (which are warning rights such as the right to remain silent).  The police must also avoid psychological and physical intimidation in order to force defendants to make statements.  If any of these constitutional rights are violated, the stop may be deemed unlawful and the case may potentially be thrown out as a result.

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