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.

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-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. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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

Involve a criminal appeal attorney soon after you learn the prosecution is appealing your sentence. Your attorney will walk you through the involving and confusing sentencing guidelines. An attorney's involvement will also help you develop a defense strategy for the appeal.