Constitutional Issues in DeKalb County DUI Cases

When you are charged with a drinking and driving offense, there are several stances you could take when trying to defend yourself in a court of law. One of these stances involves challenging the validity of the evidence to support the charge. In some cases, there are issues related to the actions leading up to an arrest, the circumstances surrounding the arrest, and the behavior of the police officers throughout the investigation.

If you believe your arrest was unconstitutional, you should reach out to a legal advocate to review the details of your case. With the help of a DeKalb County DUI defense lawyer, you may be able to address the constitutional issues in your DUI case.

Common Issues Seen in DeKalb DUI Cases

Perhaps the most common constitutional issues that arise in DUI cases are whether a vehicle was legally stopped, and whether there was sufficient evidence to arrest an individual and charge them with DUI. Legal issues pertaining to chemical analysis (blood, breath and urine testing), and the admissibility of roadside sobriety tests, or police custody are also common constitutional challenges made in DUI cases.

Constitutional issues can impact DUI cases because they can affect a prosecutor’s ability to prove the case. If there are constitutional challenges to a DUI case that are upheld and evidence is excluded, the prosecutor may be unable to prove their case. If a vehicle was stopped or searched illegally and a police officer found evidence as a result of the illegal search, the entire case could be dismissed, or the prosecutor might be barred from using certain pieces of evidence in their case.

DeKalb County courts address constitutional issues on a case-by-case basis. The goal is for a lawyer to appear in court and persuasively educate the judge the on the particular case law and evidence relevant to that individual case. The judge must ultimately consider the laws and arguments presented by both sides and make a decision based on the similarities between the facts of the case and the case law.

Protections Granted by the Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment includes the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. In DUI cases, this applies when a police officer stops a vehicle and arrests someone. Incident to arrest, the police officer must comply with a driver’s constitutional protections regarding probable cause to search their vehicle.  However, if an officer sees that the driver is under the influence of alcohol, it could allow them to investigate further.

What is Search and Seizure?

A seizure implicates the Fourth Amendment anytime a police officer stops someone to investigate whether a crime has been committed.  It is often something as simple as a minor traffic violation. Search and seizure is a police officer’s ability to search a driver’s vehicle by looking through the glove compartment, trunk, or any other items inside the vehicle. A seizure would be taking something from the car either for evidence or proof of a lawful search.

For a search to be constitutional, police officers must have enough evidence to show that they had probable cause to search the vehicle or that they had the owner’s consent to search the vehicle. Police officers commonly use evidence of a crime being committed as their gateway to searching a vehicle.  After an arrest, it is common for the police to conduct an “inventory search” to document any personal items that are in the vehicle.  These searches are designed to protect the owner from losing property, but in truth, they are frequently used to look for contraband or evidence to support the charges.

Unreasonable vs. Reasonable Warrantless Searches

The constitution mandates that an unreasonable search in a DUI case might entail a police officer searching a vehicle without probable cause, or evidence of a crime, without the owner’s permission, or without a warrant.

A warrantless search is a search that is procured through probable cause. If an officer smells marijuana in a vehicle, they may conduct a warrantless search of the vehicle because they have probable cause that there may be drugs in the vehicle. Otherwise, once an officer has placed someone under arrest, they may conduct an inventory search of the vehicle to document any valuable belongings in it.

Addressing Constitutional Issues in a DeKalb County Case

Evaluating specific constitutional violations in a drinking and driving case could be an effective strategy for defending your case in a DeKalb County court. However, in order to effectively do so, a consultation with an experienced attorney is necessary. To get started on a case, or to learn more about the constitutional issues in a DUI case, be sure to schedule a consultation today.

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Hawkins Spizman

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