Coates & Davenport, P.C.

Without a ticket, can an officer prove probable cause in a DUI case?

A police officer pulls you over at 1:30 a.m. He claims you were going 67 MPH in a 55 MPH zone and asks to see your driver's license and registration. You hand it over. The officer goes back to his squad car.

When he comes back, he asks you a few questions and you start to feel like he's looking for something. Sure enough, he eventually asks you to take a breath test, claiming you were slurring your words and that you smell like alcohol. You have been drinking, so you fail the test and are arrested.

Probable Cause

Now, you know that an officer cannot conduct a random traffic stop. All stops require probable cause. Only after stopping you did the officer find out you had been drinking. Why did he pull you over? For the charges against you to hold up in court, there has to be a justifiable reason or probable cause for the traffic stop.

However, the officer forgot to give you a speeding ticket. Can you use this to claim you were never speeding and prove that the officer did not have a reason to pull you over? Can you get you out of the DUI by arguing that the officer lacked probable cause to pull you over in the first place?

Probably not. Officers take notes and file paperwork for just about everything that they do. In the notes from your DUI stop and arrest, it’s likely the officer wrote down that you were pulled over for speeding. With or without a ticket, an officer’s notes are enough to prove that a traffic stop was warranted.

Additionally, the officer may have other ways to prove that he had probable cause. Perhaps your speeding was so dangerous that someone else saw your vehicle and called it in. Maybe multiple cars spotted you and another officer can back up the story. Maybe a dash camera in the police car recorded the entire event and makes it clear that you violated the speed limit.

The officer does not have to ticket you for all possible offenses for the traffic stop and resulting charges to hold up.

Illegal Stops

That said, maybe you feel confident that the stop was illegal. Maybe you do not believe that the officer took any notes and only reported the alleged speeding after finding out you had been drinking. If so, that could mean that the initial traffic stop was illegal.

If you are facing DUI charges, it is very important to know and understand your rights and the options you have moving forward. Questions surrounding whether a police officer had probable cause to conduct a traffic stop is just one factor that may affect the outcome of your case.

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