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DUI Car Stops

Most people who get a DUI are usually stopped because of a traffic violation or a DUI checkpoint.  A good DUI defense lawyer knows how to evaluate the reasons for a car stop in order to determine if there is any weakness in the prosecution’s case.

DUI Traffic Violations

Traffic stops are the number one reason for DUI arrests.  There are dozens of different traffic violations that can lead to a car stop, but the most common driving patterns that lead to DUI arrests include speeding, weaving, lane straddling, unsafe lane changes, going the wrong way on a one-way street, and “California rolls” through stop signs.

The first thing a good DUI defense attorney looks for is whether there was probable cause for the car stop.  An officer is not allowed to stop a car on a “hunch” that something is wrong.  The officer has to a have a reasonable, articulable suspicion of wrongdoing.  In most cases, a simple traffic violation is sufficient justification for an officer to pull somebody over.  However, sometimes the officer makes a mistake that leads to someone being pulled over illegally.

For example, when Fred Thiagarajah was a Deputy District Attorney, he had a case where the officer pulled someone over for going through a stop sign.  However, the defense attorney on that case told Fred Thiagarajah that there was no stop sign at that intersection.  Since Fred Thiagarajah was an honest prosecutor, he went to the intersection on his own time and sure enough – there wasn’t a stop sign there!  That’s when Fred Thiagarajah first realized that police officers can make big mistakes.  Now, our DUI defense team investigates the scene of every DUI stop.  Although it’s rare to see big mistakes, visiting the scene of a car stop can lead to valuable insight on how to defend a DUI.

In another case he had as a criminal defense attorney, Fred Thiagarajah saw that his client was pulled over because the officer saw him lighting a “marijuana pipe” while driving.  However, because he was familiar with California drug laws, Fred Thiagarajah knew that possessing, or even smoking, a marijuana pipe is not illegal – because marijuana pipes can be used to smoke legal substances as well.  The officer just assumed that the driver was smoking marijuana – but that is not a legal basis for pulling someone over.

In cases where there may be an illegal car stop, a knowledgeable DUI defense lawyer will file a suppression motion pursuant to Penal Code section 1538.5.

DUI Checkpoints

Another common source of DUI arrests are DUI checkpoints.  DUI checkpoints are road blocks where the police can pull over drivers for a DUI evaluation, even if there is no bad driving.  However, DUI checkpoints must follow certain rules.  Our experienced DUI defense team knows DUI checkpoint procedures and may be able to get your case dismissed, or your charges reduced, if the proper procedures weren’t followed!

In Ingersoll v. Palmer, the California Supreme Court outlined all the factors required to make a California DUI checkpoint valid, including:

*  The decision to have a DUI checkpoint, the selection of the DUI checkpoint site and the procedures used in the DUI checkpoint must all be established by a supervising police officer.

*  Officers cannot stop vehicles at random – neutral mathematical selection criteria must be used, e.g. every third car or every fifth car.

*  The DUI checkpoint roadblock must be highly visible.  Visibility factors include signs, lighting, substantial police presence, and official police vehicles.

*  There must be an opportunity for the driver to avoid the checkpoint.

*  Each driver that is questioned must be detained briefly – only long enough to establish whether there are objective symptoms of intoxication

*  There must be advance publicity about the DUI checkpoint.  Surprise DUI checkpoints cannot be used.

If a DUI checkpoint was used in your case, an experience DUI defense attorney will be able to find out whether the above criteria have been met.   If you have any questions regarding DUI checkpoints, you can call a knowledgeable DUI defense lawyer at our office today.  With offices throughout Southern California, we represent DUI clients in Los Angeles, Newport Beach, Fullerton and Irvine.

DUI Accidents

Sometimes individuals are arrested for DUI because the police were called to the scene of an accident.  You can be arrested for a DUI, even if you were the accident victim.   However, once you’re arrested for a DUI, the police usually believe that you caused the accident and extra penalties can be attached for being involved in an accident.  If there were no injuries in the accident, the extra penalties might be small.  However, if there were injuries in the accident, you can be charged with a felony DUI.   And if someone died in a DUI accident, you can be charged with murder.  If you were arrested for a DUI and you were involved in an accident, it’s important to have an experienced DUI defense attorney on your side.  At the Law Offices of Fred Thiagarajah, our DUI defense team will work hard to make sure you are not penalized for an accident that wasn’t your fault and that the penalties for any accident are minimized.

With criminal defense offices in Newport Beach, Riverside and Beverly Hills, Fred Thiagarajah has criminal defense experience in Orange, Riverside and Los Angeles Counties.

Fred Thiagarajah – The Right Lawyer.  The Right Result.  The Right Choice.


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