Most of the time, the real reason why Florida police officers pull drivers over is not for texting, speeding, running a stop sign, or failing to use a turn signal. In most cases, the traffic stop occurs because the officer suspects that the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Pretextual traffic stops are constitutional, even if the officer has an ulterior motive for pulling the driver over.
DUI checkpoints, also known as sobriety checkpoints, are also constitutional. It is important to realize that while traffic stops are legal, your constitutional rights still apply at these traffic stops.
Vehicle Searches in Florida
It is important to note that a police officer may not constitutionally search your vehicle unless there is probable cause to do so under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This usually means that the officer believes it is more likely than not that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol while behind the wheel.
An automatic search of a driver’s vehicle without probable cause (or an applicable legal exception to probable cause) is unconstitutional. Probable cause that a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol might include one or more of the following:
- Smelling alcohol on the driver’s breath
- Hearing slurred speech
- Observing drugs or alcohol in the vehicle in plain view.
The officer may also search the driver’s vehicle if he or she has a warrant – or if the driver consents to the search. If a police drug dog alerts, that may also constitute the necessary probable cause to search a vehicle.
Answering a Police Officer’s Questions at a Traffic Stop
During a traffic stop, a driver is not required to answer a police officer’s questions or admit to breaking the law. This legal right against self-incrimination stems from the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. A detained driver cannot be forced to answer a police officer’s questions or speak without having an attorney present during the questioning.
Contact a St. Petersburg DUI Defense Attorney Today
At the Khonsari Law Group, our experienced DUI defense attorneys can assist you if you believe that your constitutional rights were violated at a DUI traffic stop. Having representation throughout your entire criminal case is extremely important. Please contact us today at 727–269–5300, or contact us online for a free initial consultation.