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What are Common Police DWI Mistakes?

Police DWI mistakes are not uncommon, and can often be the key to a strong defense.

During every stage of your DWI arrest, police must follow a set of strict procedures when gathering evidence as part of your rights. However, in many cases, police often break this strict protocol . This is not saying police are intentionally violating your rights at every DWI stop. Sure, it happens, but in most cases, any failures are unintentional. Mistakes happen.

If an arresting officer commits an error during a DWI investigation, they are not allowed to use collected evidence in a court of law. A criminal defense attorney can file a motion to suppress, and if the judge approves, the evidence will be thrown out of court. Without any evidence against you, it is possible for you to avoid conviction.

Police DWI Mistakes #1: Illegal Traffic Stop

  • In order to pull you over, police need to establish “reasonable suspicion” to do so. This typically means you would have to commit a traffic offense (i.e. speeding, failing to use your turn signal when switching lanes, driving with a busted taillight, etc.) or appear that you need help (i.e. pulled over on a highway or driving a similar vehicle suspected of a crime). If law enforcement does not have reasonable suspicion, any evidence collected afterward is inadmissible in court.

Police DWI Mistakes #2: No Probable Cause

  • No probable cause – Officers must have probable cause to arrest you. This means they gathered enough evidence that a reasonable individual would believe you were drunk driving. Evidence includes the smell of alcohol coming from your mouth, slurred speech, or results from the breathalyzer or field sobriety tests. When there is no probable cause, judges often dismiss the case altogether.

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Police DWI Mistakes #3: Improper Field Sobriety Testing

  • The one-legged stand, walk and turn, and horizontal gaze nystagmus are standardized field sobriety tests law enforcement administers to determine intoxication. If the arresting officer fails to follow the standard instructions and/or provide detailed information about the performance of each test, these results are considered invalid.

Police DWI Mistakes #4: Improper Administration of a Breath Test

  •  After an arrest, police will request you take a breath test. The results from this test are also used as an important piece of evidence against you. Not only do police need to follow specific rules when administering the test (i.e. 15-minute observation period), they must also ensure the device is properly calibrated. Any errors when calibrating or administering the breath test means the results cannot be used in court.
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