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Common Mistakes Made by Police in a DUI Arrest

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Common Mistakes Made by Police in a DUI Arrest


If you are pulled over by the police for suspected DUI, the officers will conduct an investigation to determine if there is probable cause to make an arrest. Even if you end up arrested for and later charged with a DUI in Nevada, if law enforcement officials made any mistakes during the investigation, the case could ultimately be dismissed if the credibility of the officer and/or evidence comes into question.

The following are some of the most common errors committed by police officers during a DUI investigation:

Lack of Reasonable Suspicion

Law enforcement officials must obtain reasonable suspicion – or reasonable grounds that you are violating the law – before pulling someone over while driving. They must state the reason why you were stopped, such as you were speeding, failed to make a complete stop at a stop sign, making unsafe lane changes without signaling, or engaging in unsafe driving behavior.

We know that many officers still struggle with deep-rooted biases. They may, intentionally or not, target members of a certain race or gender. Such discrimination causes them to assume guilt or judge a person more harshly, leading to unjustified stops.

Moreover, police may believe a stop was completely justified, only to discover they were operating with incomplete facts. Maybe they truly believe you rolled through a stop sign or were speeding. However, they could have been positioned at just the wrong viewing angle, and they didn’t see the entire event correctly.

Field Sobriety Testing Errors

The police commonly use three NHTSA-standardized field sobriety tests (FSTs) to properly evaluate intoxication.

An officer could fail to properly administer a test or may not be properly trained or certified to conduct such tests.

Sometimes, officers fail to take outside conditions into account when conducting field sobriety tests. For instance, a woman wearing high heels in the rain could easily slip while walking a straight line. An overeager officer could pounce on this simple slip-up, using it to justify an arrest.

Moreover, police must often rely on their intuition when making DUI arrests. Someone suffering from certain medical conditions can exhibit strange behavior, and an officer can easily confuse these actions with drunkenness. Even a person with an odd, unique personality could be falsely accused of intoxication.

Breath Testing Errors

Officers must also be trained and certified to administer a breathalyzer test. They need to ensure the device is calibrated, perform a 15- to 20-minute observation period before conducting a test, and follow other important steps. A careless or hurried officer can easily miss or mistime such steps, leading to inaccurate results.

DUI Checkpoint Mistakes

The police must follow certain rules when setting up sobriety checkpoints or roadblocks. For example, checkpoints need to be visible at least 100 yards in either direction and signs with flashing lights must be at least 50 yards away or 700 feet away in rural areas. Officers must also have an unbiased procedure when stopping vehicles (e.g., every third or fifth car).

Overeager officers often overreach their authority. They assume that drivers won’t pay much attention and that they can get away with fudging the rules.

Using an Officer’s Mistakes to Your Advantage

A good legal defense should scrutinize every aspect of an arrest. Any slip-ups can lead to a case being thrown out or overturned.

  • If the police stop you because of a hunch or personal bias, that is not enough to establish reasonable suspicion. These actions make the stop illegal, and any resulting evidence inadmissible.
  • If testing was conducted incorrectly, then the results from these tests cannot be used in court.
  • If you were arrested at an improper checkpoint; your case will likely be dismissed.

Make sure your attorney takes a close look at the arresting officer’s methods. If they see evidence of a mistake, they can use it to help beat your charges.

If you or a loved one has been arrested for DUI in Reno, contact the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Stover today for a free initial consultation. Let a former prosecutor protect your rights and freedom!

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