Constitutional Issues in Virginia Beach DUI Cases

The following is information on the various constitutional issues that may come into play at a DUI stop and how they can impact your case. To learn more or discuss how your rights were violated, call and schedule a consultation with a Virginia Beach DUI lawyer today.

Fourth Amendment Issues

In Virginia Beach, the most common constitutional issue seen in DUI cases are those related to the fourth amendment dealing with probable cause for search and seizure. These issues mainly come into play when we’re determining why the officer pulled over the defendant. The reason for the stop is so important because there needs to be enough probable cause for the officer to make an arrest for a DUI, but there also has to be reasonable suspicion for the officer to pull over the defendant in the first place.

If the stop is deemed to be invalid then the entire case is thrown out. Anything that happened after the invalid stop is no longer relevant. It’s a huge issue that is always addressed in every type of DUI case before anything else.

Search and Seizure in DUI Cases

For a DUI, search and seizure refers to searching you or your vehicle for evidence. This includes requiring you to take a breathalyzer test. The fourth amendment protects drivers from unlawful searches and seizure, which means that the officer needs to have a valid reason to stop the vehicle and a valid reason to arrest you.

Unreasonable and Warrantless Searches

An unreasonable search happens when a police officer doesn’t have enough probable cause for a search or reasonable articulable suspicion that a crime has taken place. Law enforcement cannot just decide to search somebody or their vehicle without a good reason to do so or without obtaining the person’s consent.

A warrantless search is when a law enforcement officer conducts a search without a warrant. This doesn’t necessarily void the search. Most searches are actually warrantless searches. A warrantless search is valid after an arrest or if a vehicle is going to be impounded so they search for inventory purposes. A warrantless search is also valid if the defendant gives consent to the officer.

What Do Officers Need to Show in Order To Make a Search Constitutional?

For the search to be constitutional, officers have to show that there is probable cause for the search or that they have reasonable, articulable suspicion that a crime has been or is being committed. If there happens to be an open container of alcohol in plain view inside the vehicle, then this would be enough probable cause for a search. Or if there is an extremely strong odor of alcohol coming from inside the vehicle,  again it would likely be enough probable cause for a search.

How Constitutional Issues Can Impact Your Case

Virginia Beach treats these constitutional issues with the utmost importance. A lot of times in DUI cases in particular, the constitutional issues are the strongest factors that will determine whether the DUI will be dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense. Whether the stop is valid is one of the first things that almost any DUI lawyer will look for in a case, because if they can win there, then the court generally will dismiss the case because there’s not usually anything else that they can use. The courts follow the US Supreme Court’s interpretation of the constitution.

If there happens to be an issue that the US Supreme Court has  not already addressed, then the Supreme Court of Virginia is the next one in line.