Under California DUI law, an officer must have “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity to stop a vehicle. This standard must be based on facts to which the officer can come into court and testify. The officer must have more than a mere hunch of criminal activity before stopping a vehicle. A court will look at the quantity and quality of information available to the officer at the time of the stop when determining whether the stop met the reasonable suspicion standard. This standard is quite low, as the observation of a mere traffic offense may be found to justify the stop of a vehicle.
According to California DUI law, the following traffic offenses have been used to justify a stop of a motor vehicle:
- Reckless Driving
- Weaving within a lane of traffic Reckless Driving
- Crossing a fog or center line
- Failure to signal
- Equipment violations
- License Plate light not illuminated
- Tail light not working
- Head light out
- Driving with a flat tire
California DUI law states that even if an officer has a reasonable suspicion sufficient to justify a vehicle stop, there still must be probable cause to arrest the suspected DWI offender.
DUI Tipster Stops
Is it permissible for a police officer to stop a motor vehicle based solely on the word of an anonymous tipster who calls 911?
Under California DUI law, a police officer may only stop a motor vehicle if the officer has “reasonable suspicion of illegality based on articulable facts.” In other words, the arresting officer must be able to come to court and explain why he pulled you over.
With the frequency of cell phone usage, every motorist becomes a potential over-the-road law enforcement tipster. California DUI law holds that a 911 tip is considered “reliable hearsay.” To stop a vehicle based solely on a tip, when the police officer does not observe a traffic offense, California courts consider the following factors:
- Identity and whereabouts of the informant (so they may be held accountable)
- The informant’s credibility
- Existence of corroborating information and a demonstrated basis for the informant’s knowledge
An informant who identifies themselves with name and contact information is presumed reliable under California DUI law. As such, a vehicle stop based on specific facts of criminal activity relayed by an identified informant and absent any subsequent police corroboration may very well be justifiable. DUI stops grounded solely on the word of an anonymous tipster normally require police to make independent observations of criminal activity to validate the stop.
It is essential to have a California drunk driving lawyer examine the facts of your case to determine if you were lawfully stopped in your DUI case.
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