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DUI Vehicle Stops in D.C.

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prevents federal government agents from conducting unreasonable seizures of the people. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution extends this limitation to the state police. A traffic/vehicle stop is considered a seizure. Therefore all traffic stops must be supported by a reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred or is occurring, which in the context of DUI would be that the police officer has a reasonable suspicion that the driver is driving while intoxicated. To have reasonable suspicion that would justify a stop, police must be able to point to specific facts that would indicate to a reasonable person that a crime has been, is being, or is about to be committed. This suspicion is most often made through the observations a police officer makes of the driver’s driving behavior, such as erratic driving, swerving, or weaving. If it is found that the stop was not based on a reasonable suspicion, the stop will be deemed unlawful and any evidence obtained from the stop will be inadmissible in court.

If the police do not suspect a criminal activity or traffic violation and then stop a person’s vehicle and then arrest a person for DWI/DUI/OWI, then the traffic stop would be unlawful. This traffic stop would be unlawful because the officer did not have a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or criminal activity.  In order for a judge to declare a stop leading to a DUI arrest valid, the police will have to establish that that they were not acting randomly and that they were not simply stopping a person for an illegitimate reason.

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