If a police officer is going to pull you over for drunk driving, they need to have probable cause that you’re violating the law before they put on their lights and sirens and conduct a traffic stop. What “probable cause” means, though, is a difficult question to answer, and is often left for courts and judges to decide on a case-by-case basis, with each decision being used as an example of when the probable cause requirement was met, and when it wasn’t.
One January evening in 2013, a Kansas police officer was at a red light when he saw another vehicle “power braking” – hitting both the gas and the brake pedals at the same time to make the rear wheels spin without the car going anywhere. Knowing that power braking was a sign of a drag race, the officer prepared to conduct a traffic stop as soon as the light turned green and the car sped away.
However, when the light turned green, the other car didn’t race off. Instead, it drove along at a very normal speed.
Nevertheless, the officer pulled him over, anyway for violation of a Kansas law prohibiting and unlawful “exhibition of speed or acceleration.” During the traffic stop, the driver took and failed several field sobriety tests and a breathalyzer, and was charged with OUI.
Because the whole traffic stop was because of the driver’s apparent intention to speed, and because all of the OUI evidence was obtained in that traffic stop, if the traffic stop was unlawful then all of the OUI evidence would get thrown out because of the exclusionary rule.
According to the Supreme Court of Kansas, that was exactly what needed to happen. An unlawful “exhibition of speed or acceleration” – a fancy way of saying “speeding” – required the car to actually move. In this case, though, the car was stationary, with only its wheels spinning in place.
Because the officer had no indication that the driver was committing any other infraction and the stop was only being done for speeding, all of the OUI evidence found in during the stop needed to be thrown away.
Police officers are paid to enforce the law, and often come up with creative ways to investigate crimes that they think are going on. However, like all other human beings, they can make mistakes or just be plain wrong. When they are, though, it can still put you in a difficult position where you need to defend yourself against a criminal charge that can change your life.
The penalties for OUI are draconian in Maine, so having a skilled OUI-defense attorney at your side through the entire process is absolutely critical. Call the law office of William T. Bly at (207) 571-8146 or contact him online for the defense you need.
If you are facing criminal charges in Maine, the attorneys at The Maine Criminal Defense Group are here to help. Call our office to speak with
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