Being the subject of a drunk driving investigation can be a scary and confusing experience. It might surprise you to learn that law enforcement began their investigation looking for evidence of driving under the influence of alcohol only to change their investigation to a drugged driving investigation. You might wonder if it’s legal for law enforcement to change the charges against you. Here’s what you need to know about whether you can be stopped for driving under the influence of alcohol and later charged with driving under the influence of other substances:
In order for the police to lawfully stop you while you’re driving, they must have a reason to believe that you’re breaking the law. Their belief that you’re breaking the law must be reasonable. They aren’t allowed to rely on any law enforcement hunches by claiming they just know you’re up to something because they’re police experts.
The officer must be able to articulate their reason for stopping your vehicle. They must be able to point to how they observed you breaking the law or otherwise had reason to believe that you broke a law. The law that you break may be a crime, or it may be a civil traffic violation.
A brief detention to investigate you for a violation of the law is called a Terry stop. The name comes from the U.S. Supreme Court case Terry v. Ohio. In the case, the Supreme Court outlined what law enforcement must be able to show in order to detain a vehicle. They must be able to show that a reasonable person in their circumstances would believe that the driver or someone in the vehicle may be committing a crime.
Whether the police can lawfully change the nature of their investigation after the traffic stop begins depends on how the traffic stop unfolds. If you roll down your window and the police smell marijuana coming from the car, they can lawfully change their investigation to see if you’re under the influence of marijuana. They’re allowed to investigate different offenses based on what they see and hear after a lawful traffic stop begins.
However, law enforcement doesn’t have a blanket ability to keep you until they can think of a crime that you’ve committed. In Rodriguez v. United States, the Supreme Court said that it’s unlawful for the police to hold a person for longer than necessary to investigate the grounds for the stop. If law enforcement doesn’t have a reasonable suspicion that you’re under the influence of drugs, they can’t make you wait at the traffic stop until they’re able to come up with that suspicion. Instead, they must send you on your way.
As a practical matter, when the police stop you for DUI with alcohol and later charge you with DUI with drugs, it’s important to look at the type of chemical test given in your case. Alcohol content can be measured by a person’s breath. When the police suspect a person of driving under the influence of alcohol, they can easily measure the person’s alcohol levels using a breath test.
However, when you’re under the influence of drugs, it doesn’t show in a breathalyzer test. You can take a breath test and still receive results that indicate you have no alcohol in your system. For the police to detect drugs, it’s most appropriate to administer a blood test or saliva test.
If you’re charged with driving under the influence of drugs, it’s important to evaluate the type of test that the police give you. It’s the police’s job to prove that you’re guilty. If they made an error in testing procedures, it’s possible that they may not have appropriately gathered the evidence against you.
In some cases, law enforcement can stop you for driving under the influence of alcohol and later charge you with driving under the influence of drugs. In other cases, it’s inappropriate for law enforcement to detain you longer than necessary to investigate the initial reason for the stop. Whether the police acted properly in your case depends on how things unfolded.
If you’re facing a charge of DUI for any reason, it’s important to carefully evaluate the reason for the stop. You have a right to be free from unconstitutional search and seizure, and it’s important to hold law enforcement to a high standard when you’re evaluating the case against you. An experienced DUI attorney can help you examine the investigation to determine if they police acted properly. If they didn’t, your attorney can help you bring the issue to the court’s attention and request a dismissal of your case.
The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Learn more about DUI by reading this wikipedia page.