Facts About Unreasonable Searches in DC DUI Cases
Police who perform unreasonable searches in DC DUI Cases have violated the rights of their victims. To learn more, contact counselors from Scrofano Law, PC.
Illegal Police Searches During a DUI Investigation
A search is an intrusion into the person or property of an individual, including their home, office, or vehicle.
Searches are a common tool for law enforcement officers during criminal investigations. The evidence obtained during a search can be used as a basis to convict the suspect. For example, if you get pulled over on suspicion of a DUI, a DC police officer may search your vehicle for drugs, alcohol, or other intoxicants. If they find any offending item, it will be confiscated and used as evidence during your DUI trial.
But because searches are so invasive, the fourth amendment of the United States Constitution and other state laws have set certain standards that searches have to comply with to prevent abuses. Under the law, every search must be reasonable to be legal. If a search is illegal, any evidence obtained from there may be inadmissible in court.
So, if you’re dealing with a DUI charge in DC, or you’ve been convicted of a DUI offense based on evidence retrieved via a search, it’s important to ascertain whether or not the search carried out on your person or vehicle was reasonable.
Keep reading to learn more about what constitutes an unreasonable search in DC and how an experienced DC DUI attorney can help in such cases.
DUI Offenses in DC
According to the DC Official Code, it is illegal to drive or physically control a vehicle when:
- The person has an alcohol concentration level of 0.08 grams or more per 100milliletres of blood or 210 liters of breath, or 0.10 grams or more per 100 milliliters of urine
- The person is under the influence of any intoxicating substance or liquor
- The person is less than 21 years old, and their blood, urine, or breath contains any trace of alcohol
The penalties upon conviction may include imprisonment and payment of fines up to $5000, depending on whether the person is a first-timer or a repeat offender.
When Is a Search Unreasonable in DC DUI Cases?
DUI offenses involve driving, so suspects are likely apprehended during traffic stops or at police checkpoints where the police may search their vehicles.
But what qualifies as an unreasonable search in such circumstances? The answer lies in the provisions of the Fourth Amendment and the DC Official Code.
The Fourth Amendment
This constitutional amendment was adopted as part of the Bill of Rights in 1791 and prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures by government officials.
Fourth Amendment rights have been interpreted by the Supreme Court to include a prohibition on any search that is not specifically authorized by a warrant.
Nevertheless, the Fourth Amendment does not protect against all types of searches and seizures. For example, it does not protect against the police using their senses to see something in plain view. So, if the police pull you over because you were driving recklessly and the officer finds a bottle of alcohol on your front passenger seat while speaking to you, it would not be unreasonable for the officer to retrieve the bottle as evidence.
So, it is not unreasonable or illegal for an officer to pull you over and search your car or your person if there is a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, like in the reckless driving example above.
If you consent to a search, then the question of whether the search was unreasonable will not arise. Regardless, if you feel you were the victim of an unreasonable search by a Washington D.C. police officer, you may need to contact an attorney for help.
The DC Official Code
Under the DC official code, searches should be conducted with a warrant.
Search warrants in DC are issued by judicial officers and allow law enforcement officers to search a designated location or vehicle and seize property that indicates the commission of a crime, was illegally possessed, or was used to commit a crime. So if your search was done with a warrant, the question of unreasonableness is not likely to arise.
Nevertheless, officers are allowed to conduct searches without a warrant in certain cases, such as when controlled substances are involved, as long as they have probable cause for their actions. The reckless driving example above can provide some insight here. In that case, the act of reckless driving could serve as probable cause, as that’s the reason why the driver was stopped in the first place.
In a nutshell, a search is unreasonable when it violates a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy and is done without a warrant or without cause. If you’ve experienced this or you’ve been charged with a DUI based on such a search, you may need to consult an attorney that could help to protect your rights.
Effects of an Unreasonable DUI Search in Washington, DC
If you are charged with a DUI based on evidence recovered through an unreasonable search, such evidence is inadmissible in court. So it cannot be used as a basis for your conviction.
You can challenge such evidence in court with the help of your attorney.
How DC DUI Attorneys Can Help With Issues of Unreasonable Searches
Unreasonable searches violate your constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment, and it is important to protect and enforce those rights in court if they have been unnecessarily infringed upon.
If you’ve experienced an unreasonable search in your DUI case, you’d likely benefit from the professional help DC defense attorneys. They can protect your rights, defend you during the trial and file a motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the unreasonable search on your behalf. This way, you might be able to avoid a DUI conviction and the attendant penalties.
They can also file a civil suit against the government for breach of privacy and obtain damages on your behalf. Even if you’ve already been convicted based on an unreasonable search, your attorney might be able to challenge and have your conviction overturned.
If you have further questions about your DUI case and unreasonable search, consider contacting attorneys from Scrofano Law. We can answer your questions and help you with your DUI case in Washington, DC. Call us at 202-765-3175 to schedule a meeting and get the help you need.
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