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State Assemblyman says officers violated his rights during DUI stop

The attorney for a southern California legislator recently filed papers in the Contra Costa Superior Court seeking to suppress evidence on the basis that the police lacked probable cause when stopping the assemblyman.

Concord police officers stopped West Covina Assemblyman Roger Hernandez on March 27. The Concord police chief told the Sacramento Bee that officers observed Hernandez’s vehicle weaving in its lane and then execute an abrupt turn without signaling. Hernandez pulled over into the parking lot of an area hotel. Police reports indicate that, once approached by police, Hernandez allegedly asked, “”I’m here at the hotel and I’m not driving any more, can’t you just let me go?” Hernandez told the Bee he drank two or three glasses of wine over a five hour period and that he was confident that blood tests would show that he was not drunk at the time. Lab tests, however, assessed his blood-alcohol content at 0.08, the legal minimum for DUI in California.

This week, however, the Assemblyman’s lawyer took another approach to defend his client. Peter Johnson filed papers alleging that the Concord Police’s stop of his client was improper and constituted a violation of Hernandez’s constitutional rights requiring the suppression of evidence from the stop. Officers lacked the required probable cause to stop Hernandez on the night in question, and as a result, the court must throw out much of the evidence in the case, including the blood test, Hernandez’s statements, and observations of witnesses and police officers, the defense contended.

California law states that any violation of the state’s Vehicle Code constitutes probable cause for officers to execute a traffic stop. Generally, though, that Vehicle Code violation must occur in the officer’s presence in order to establish the necessary probable cause. If the officer lacked the required reasonable belief or proper basis for performing the traffic stop, evidence acquired as a result of the stop, including statements, observations of police officers, and BAC test results may be excluded from evidence in the case.

Hernandez told the Bee that he believed he did signal prior to executing the turn into the hotel parking lot. If true, it could significantly harm the prosecution’s case. While Hernandez’s allegedly weaving might be sufficient to establish probable cause on its own, the improper turn without signaling would automatically give the officers probable cause for the stop.

The prosecutor in the case, Dana Filkowski, was unfazed. Filkowski told the Bee that Hernandez’s motion was standard in DUI cases, in order to “put the burden on us to justify it.” The prosecutor characterized Hernandez’s argument as “boilerplate language” lacking “specific accusations of wrongdoing against a particular officer.”

If you’re stopped for DUI, you need attorneys who understand how to defend these cases. Our Santa Rosa Criminal and DUI attorneys are knowledgeable, keenly understanding of both your legal rights and the state’s legal responsibilities. If you are facing a DUI charge based upon a bogus traffic code violation, or no probable cause at all, contact our DUI attorneys promptly. Our attorneys can help you understand your rights and all the options available to you to defend yourself and assert those rights.

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