In Florida, law enforcement can only lawfully stop you while driving a vehicle, if they have reasonable suspicion or probable cause of a crime.
It doesn’t take much to meet these requirements (it can be as simple as a minor traffic violation), but if there isn’t reasonable suspicion or probable cause then an arrest would not be legally justified.
Knowing this can be very useful in a DUI defense, as your case could be thrown out entirely. It’s important to clearly remember what happened and what you were told.
What Is Probable Cause?
- Probable cause is when law enforcement believes that a crime was in the process of being committed, had been committed, or was about to be committed.
- Probable cause allows for the lawful search or arrest of an individual.
What Is Reasonable Suspicion?
- Reasonable suspicion is considered less convincing than probable cause, but more than a ‘hunch’. It must be based on ‘specific and articulable facts’ and ‘taken together with rational inferences from those facts’.
- If law enforcement has reasonable suspicion, they are allowed to frisk or briefly detain the suspect. It is not enough to arrest or issue a search warrant.
Examples of When You Can Be Stopped By Police in St. Petersburg, Florida
- Traffic violations allow police to conduct a traffic stop through reasonable suspicion.
- The stop can evolve into a DUI investigation or other crime if evidence for that arises.
- For example, you could be stopped for a traffic violation and then investigated for a DUI if the officer smelt alcohol on your breath.
- Police can look out for signs of intoxication or drunk drivers while investigating a car accident scene.
- The police may need to question the drivers involved, potentially revealing evidence that leads to DUI investigations.
Reckless or Dangerous Driving
- Officers can also stop you based on the suspicion of drunk driving, such as reckless driving or bad driving.
- Unusual behavior such as swerving, speeding, extremely slow driving and irregular use of lights are common examples.
- Once stopped for this, the police may be able to investigate a DUI crime.
- On occasional dates during the year, the Pinellas County police department set up sobriety checkpoints to monitor and reduce drunk drivers.
- They are often referred to as ‘DUI Wolf Packs’.
- Florida courts ruled that these stops are valid.
- The stop must be part of a systemized check, where many are being routinely stopped.
- They cannot just stop anyone, anywhere.
Read Related: What Happens During a Florida DUI Stop?
Unlawful Police Stops
If a police officer stops you without reasonable suspicion or probable cause, then the stop was likely unlawful.
For example, a police officer cannot stop you based on race, gender, the manufacturer of your car or any other irrelevant factor not related to the suspicion of a crime.
These incidents can get your case thrown out entirely, as it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. This is true, even if evidence of a crime was found after the stop.
For example, we’ve had cases where the defendant was found to have passed marijuana in their car and arrested for a drug possession crime. They had little defense for that mistake. But we discovered that their traffic stop had no justification. When we presented this evidence to the judge, the case was dismissed entirely and our client went home without any penalties or convictions.
What To Do If My Arrest or Traffic Stop Was Unlawful?
If you believe your traffic stop or arrest was unlawful, you’re in the right place.
- Write down the officers’ badges and patrol car numbers and any other details.
- Get contact information from witnesses.
- Please call our expert St. Petersburg DUI defense lawyers as soon as possible for a free consultation. We work quickly to establish the facts and get your case thrown out.
- Remain calm and try to recall what happened, including how you were stopped, the reasons given and any instructions the officer requested.
- Write these memories down. Do not make anything up.
What Are My Rights If I Get Pulled Over By Police?
When you are stopped by police, you are not obliged to provide any evidence that they could use against you. You can remain silent and even refuse a breathalyzer test (however, there are consequences).
- You have the right to remain silent. You don’t need to answer any questions about your travel plans, where you live, or what you’re doing.
- If you wish to remain silent, say it out loud.
- If the police ask you for your name, you are required to give it if they have probable cause or reasonable suspicion.
- You do not have to consent to a search of yourself, or your belonging. However, police can pat you down if they suspect you have a weapon.
- Refusing the consent of a search may not stop the officer, but could preserve your rights later on.
- You have the right to appoint a lawyer after an arrest.
DUI Defense Attorney in St. Petersburg, FL
If you believe your stop or arrest was unlawful in St. Petersburg, Florida, please contact our DUI defense lawyers. We can deploy a fast and aggressive defense strategy to reduce or drop your charges, gathering evidence and facts that show your rights were infringed.
Our Pinellas County criminal defense attorneys at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., are part of one of Tampa Bay’s most prestigious law firms. We have the reputation and connections to make things happen.
Contact us today for a free consultation to get started or CALL (727) 381-2300