How the Fourth Amendment Protects Drivers Pulled Over for DWI [infographic]

When police stop drivers in Minnesota for drunk driving, the Fourth Amendment provides protections for the people who are stopped against unreasonable stops, searches, and seizures. In order to stop a vehicle, an officer must first have reasonable suspicion that the driver has committed an offense. After the vehicle is stopped, the police officer then must have probable cause to suspect that the driver has committed the offense of drunk driving before the driver can be arrested and charged.

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Officers also must conduct their investigations in a manner that complies with the Fourth Amendment and may not conduct unreasonable searches of the person or his or her vehicle without consent or a warrant, unless an exception applies. A DWI attorney in St. Paul may analyze how a stop, search and seizure happened in order to make certain that the process was constitutional.

Reasonable Suspicion Vs. Probable Cause

Officers may not stop a car unless they have reasonable suspicion that the driver has committed or is committing an offense. A suspected offense may be a minor one and can be unrelated to drunk driving. After the stop, if an officer acquires information that leads him or her to have a reasonable suspicion that the person was drunk driving, the officer may then work to build probable cause through an investigation.

Probable cause is necessary before an officer can arrest and charge a driver; the officer must have a reasonable belief in the driver’s guilt. Officers may conduct investigations to develop probable cause through roadside tests and personal observations.

Reasonable Searches and Seizures

An officer may request drivers to perform roadside tests, but the tests are not mandatory. These include the NHTSA-standardized field sobriety tests. Drivers have a right to refuse the roadside tests. If they are asked to do a breathalyzer at the police station, they do not have the right to refuse; if they do, they will lose their licenses. A driver’s refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test may be used as evidence against him or her.

Officers may not search a vehicle unless they have warrants or the drivers’ consent, or see evidence in plain sight. For example, an officer who sees a liquor bottle lying on the front seat could search and seize it. DWI attorneys in St. Paul review searches and seizures to make certain that they comply with Fourth Amendment requirements.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Knowing how to choose a criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis, MN, can help you hire a lawyer who will prepare an effective defense strategy and fight for the best result from your case. One of the crucial tips when selecting a criminal defense lawyer is to vet those with relevant experience in cases like yours. You can only do this when you thoroughly understand the charges you are facing.
People anticipating an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, might ask, “What is the role of a defense attorney during an arrest?” A skilled criminal defense attorney can explain your options, ensure the police follow the rules, and protect your rights. The attorney will build a solid defense, talk to the prosecutor, and fight for your best interests.
Knowing when to hire a criminal lawyer for your case in Minnesota can help protect your constitutional rights and turn the odds in your favor. You should retain a criminal lawyer immediately after learning you are under investigation, get arrested, or are charged with a crime. Seasoned criminal lawyers understand the criminal justice system, can build a winning defense strategy, and aggressively push for a positive outcome of your case.