Let's say you're driving down a highway one night when you see the flashing lights of a police car in your review mirror. Doing a quick check, you're certain you haven't done anything to warrant a traffic stop: You weren't speeding, you signaled before changing lanes. Although you can't think of a reason for being pulled over, the police officer must have one for doing so. Not having cause for the traffic stop can be considered a violation of your rights and can have a substantial impact should you charged with a crime, such as driving while intoxicated.
Probable Cause for a Traffic Stop
In Texas, as in every other state in the country, when a police officer makes a traffic stop, they must have had a justifiable reason for doing so. This means something must have suggested that the driver broke the law, such as failing to stop at a red traffic light. The reason an officer gives for pulling someone over is referred to as probable cause. It is necessary to protect every person's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Moreover, the reason for the stop can't be based on a hunch. Let's return to the earlier situation for an example. Suppose you were on the highway because you had just left a party. The officer saw you leave and figured people were drinking there; thus, they feel that you might be drunk driving. However, their feeling isn't cause for a stop. It's grounded on their own belief, and it's not something concrete they can point to if they're later asked why they pulled you over.
Now, let's say the officer follows you for a while and sees you weaving between lanes. In this instance, they have a reason to stop you: You're displaying unsafe driving behavior. Later, when they are writing up their report or if they're questioned in court, they can provide your actions as evidence for the stop.
What Happens If a Traffic Stop Was Unlawful?
As mentioned earlier, if an officer pulls you over without reason, this can profoundly affect your case. That's because any evidence collected as part of an unlawful stop may be inadmissible in court. The belief is that if the stop was illegal, anything obtained from it is tainted and cannot be used to prove guilt.
If the prosecutor loses evidence because of an unlawful stop, their case may be weakened. Therefore, they may end up dropping the charges.
If you were charged with a DWI in Dallas, discuss your case with one of our attorneys. We'll review your situation from the initial stop to ensure your rights are protected. And if law enforcement officials committed any violations, we'll challenge the evidence in court.
To schedule your free consultation, call Hamilton Grant PC at (214) 225-7117 or submit an online contact form today.