Under Fourth Amendment case law, an officer must have a "reasonable articulable suspicion" before stopping you. A stop cannot be based on a mere hunch and it cannot be based on lawful behavior the officer subjectively views as suspicious. Violation of this principle requires that the evidence resulting from the stop be suppressed and that the case be dismissed.
There is a substantial body of case law from both state and federal courts that provides guidance as to the appropriate factors on which an officer may base a stop. However, it is up to the attorney defending the case to recognize and research any potential issues. The judge will not do it for you. In fact, even when brought to the judge's attention, judges do not like to dismiss DWI cases.
Attorney Manikas recently had a case where he made a motion to suppress the stop. The officer claimed that the stop was based on two things - the driver was riding on the line and the driver's license plate as hanging straight up and down because one of the bolts was missing. Attorney Manikas was able to convince the judge that riding on the line, as opposed to going over the line, was not a basis for a stop. At that point the case came down to whether the hanging license plate violated Virginia law such that it was a proper basis for the stop. The officer testified that the plate was "handing." However, the applicable Virginia Code Section only prohibited "swinging" plates. Attorney Manikas convinced the judge that there was enough variance between the two terms that the testimony did not support the stop. The judge agreed with attorney Manikas and dismissed the DWI and refusal cases.
The following are factual situations police often watch for when making a stop for DWI/DUI:
- Operating a motor vehicle at night without the headlights on;
- Operating a motor vehicle at night with the high beam lights on at all times;
- Failing to use turn signals when making a turn;
- Failing to turn off turn signals after a turn is made;
- Slow speed in areas where it is not logical;
- A vehicle weaving back and forth on the road; and
- Sudden and short braking due to slow reactions.
Regardless of what factors an officer bases the stop on, the burden is on the government to present this evidence and convince the judge that the totality of the factors amount to "reasonable articulable suspicion" if a motion to suppress is made. Of course, this defense is waived if a proper motion is not made and articulated by defense counsel.
Request your free copy of Understanding and Navigating the DUI/DWI Process and contact Kyle G. Manikas for a free, no-obligation consultation on your Fairfax DWI/DUI case from Fairfax DWI lawyer and former Fairfax County prosecutor .
Manikas Law, LLC
10513 Judicial Drive, Suite 203
Fairfax, VA 22030