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California DUI, Traffic Stop, and Your Rights

Traffic Stop and Arrest

For many of us, the only interaction we will have with law enforcement is during a routine traffic stop. When you are engaged with the police during a traffic stop it is important to know your Fourth Amendment Right which prevents the unlawful search and seizure of your property or person. If an officer has a valid reason to stop you for a traffic violation, there are circumstances where the officer may search your vehicle or yourself. A traffic stop is considered valid even if the officer was mistaken about a fact as long as he acted in good faith, or you believe that his reason for pulling you over was based on personal bias.

When you are pulled over, you are required to provide the officer with your valid driver’s license, and proof of insurance. When handing the officer your credentials, you may ask why you were pulled over.

Once a traffic stop has begun, the officer still needs probable cause to search you or your vehicle. The officer stopping you for a traffic violation, in of itself, is not probable cause. There are exceptions to this rule, however:

Traffic Stop Exceptions

  • Plain View: If, during a routine traffic stop, an officer sees contraband or evidence of a crime, he has probable cause. An officer may use his flashlight to look through the windows of your vehicle and observe the cabin. Contraband may include a weapon, narcotics, or an open alcohol container.
  • Search Incident to Arrest: If the officer suspects that the driver of the vehicle has committed a crime such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, at the time of arrest he may search the vehicle, including the glove compartment and trunk.
  • Dog Search: If during the time in which the officer is conducting a traffic stop, a dog trained to detect contraband alerts the officer, then a search of the vehicle is valid. You may not be detained, however, for a dog to be brought to the vehicle after the conclusion of the traffic stop.
  • Consent: If an officer asks for your consent to search your vehicle, you have the right to decline the search. An officer may not coerce or threaten you into giving consent. Once you give consent for your vehicle to be searched, regardless of what is found, the court will consider it a valid search.

Contact an Attorney

Traffic stops are common in California, and may be the result of actions you do not realize are violations. If, however, you are in Sonoma County, Mendocino County or Lake County California and you have found yourself with a DUI because of an invalid traffic stop, or face criminal charges because of an illegal search, contact one of our experienced DUI attorneys, who will fight to protect your rights.


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