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DUI Stops

Driving under the influence stops follow investigations coducted by California Highway Patrol Officers, local police officers and county deputy sheriffs every DUI Stoptime they see a motor vehicle in motion. During this phase of a driving under the influence investigation the law enforcement officer is conducting a continuous screen of all cars on the road, while answering the question of whether he or she should stop a particular driver out of all the other drivers. In order for a police officer to stop stop a motorist lawfully, there must exist either probable cause or reasonable suspicion.

Probable cause is a higher standard than reasonable suspicion. Examples of probable cause include violations of specific laws such as speeding, driving a car at night without lights, running a stop sign, and driving a car without a front license plate. The probable cause standard is an objective standard. In other words, any person would draw the same conclusion drawn by the law enforcement officer if presented with the same information.

Reasonable suspicion is a subjective standard and occurs without a violation of a specific law. Stops based on reasonable suspicion may include weaving within a lane, driving at a speed slower than normal, almost striking an object or wide turning movements. The reasonable suspicion standard is a subjective standard which takes into consideration the training and experience of the law enforcement officer. For example, a California Highway Patrol officer usually has a higher level of training and experience in detecting a drunk driver than a local police officer.

Sobriety checkpoints are the only exception to the probable cause and reasonable suspicion requirement in California DUI stops. Sobriety checkpoints are essentially roadblocks carried out pursuant to guidelines approved by the California Supreme Court. The Supreme Court stressed a "need" by law enforcement officers to search for drunk drivers without probable cause or reasonable suspicion. In spite of the Constitution's Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable seizures, the California Supreme Court concluded that interest of deterring DUI drivers outweighed the interest of people to be free from unreasonable seizures.

Either probable cause or reasonable suspicion are court approved standards for stopping the driver in order to conduct a driving under the influence investigation. The only exception to probable cause and reasonable suspicion is the driving under the influence sobriety checkpoint. Once stopped, the drunk driving investigation passes through the phases of personal contact with the driver followed by pre arrest screening. The personal contact phase provides an opportunity for the California Highway Patrol officer or other law enforcement officer to observe signs and symptoms of alcohol impairment such as bloodshot and watery eyes, odor of an alcoholic beverage, slurred speach and difficulty walking. Once the personal contact phase reveals the signs and symptoms of consumption, the pre arrest screening phase includes the administration of so-called field sobriety tests, to observe a person's balance, coordination, ability to perform divided attention tasks, and breath alcohol level as tested by a pre arrest preliminary alcohol screening device breath test.

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