The American justice system dictates that government officials must have probable cause in order to stop motorists who are traveling on the roads. A Massachusetts police officer who lacks sufficient probable cause to conduct a search and seizure after improperly stopping a motorist for suspected DUI may have a judge rule the actions unconstitutional. This can lead to a case being thrown out of court entirely due to a violation of the probable cause requirement.
This proved to be the case recently for a Massachusetts man who had been arrested and accused of committing a second DUI offense. A Gloucester police officer pulled the 30-year-old man over on a sunny day after noticing that the man was driving with his fog lights running. According to that officer, the man appeared visibly intoxicated. The man’s blood-alcohol content proved to test over the legal limit and police apparently uncovered marijuana in his vehicle.
The accused man later argued that, since Massachusetts law does prohibit drivers from using fog lights on sunny days, the police officer lacked sufficient probable cause to pull him over and search his vehicle. A judge ultimately agreed with this argument. He ruled that the traffic stop had in fact been unlawful; and all of the evidence of alleged wrongdoing uncovered during that traffic stop couldn’t be considered at trial.
The fact that this case was thrown out of court due to a lack of probable cause displays just how important this tenet is to the American justice system. Any individual who is accused of DUI in the state of Massachusetts may benefit from researching probable cause requirements in an effort to determine if state law has been properly followed. This may help provide a solid foundation for challenging a potentially improper traffic stop as an individual begins to mount a criminal defense against the charges they face.
Source: Gloucester Times, “Drunken driving case tossed over fog-light stop,” Marjorie Nesin, May 23, 2013