Common Law Enforcement Mistakes in a DWI Arrest

If you have been arrested for a DWI in North Carolina, it is imperative to not lose hope. While we previously discussed the common mistakes people make in a drunk driving case, police officers are also prone to committing errors.

Law enforcement is required to follow strict protocol when making an arrest and during the subsequent investigation. If a mistake was made in any part of the case, the defendant may be able to get the entire case dismissed and avoid potential jail time, fines, license suspension, and other penalties.

Here are the most common mistakes made by police officers in a DWI arrest:

  • Failure to establish probable cause – In order to make a traffic stop, officers need to have reasonable suspicion (i.e. committing a traffic violation) to stop a motorist. They are not allowed to perform a random stop or pull someone over based on mere suspicion alone. DWI cases are often thrown out of court if the arresting officer failed to establish a valid reason for the initial traffic stop or probable cause after conducting an investigation on the scene.
  • Field sobriety test (FST) errors – Another common mistake during a DWI arrest is failure to properly administer and assess field sobriety test. Officers must follow the standardized instructions when performing the one-legged stand, walk and turn, and horizontal gaze nystagmus. For instance, they must take health conditions, road conditions, and weather conditions into account when administering these tests. In addition, they must describe the results in detail when reporting how each test was conducted.
  • Improperly performing the breathalyzer test – Officers who administer preliminary breath tests require proper training and certification. If a test isn’t conducted in accordance to the standard procedures, the results cannot be used as evidence in a court of law. Furthermore, if the testing device is not properly calibrated, the subsequent results are considered inaccurate.
  • Failure to read Miranda Rights – Officers commonly forget to read a person’s Miranda Rights upon arrest, or purposely elects not to. If you are arrested and asked questions without being read this warning, anything you say cannot be used against you in court.
  • Police misconduct – Altercations between law enforcement and ordinary citizens have dominated the current news. If a person is resisting arrest, then officers can use force. By contrast, they cannot be too physical if an individual is cooperating. Officers also cannot use verbal misconduct, such as calling a suspect names or acting unprofessionally. Evidence of misconduct can be beneficial for a defendant’s case.

For more information about DWI arrests in North Carolina, contact our Raleigh criminal defense attorneys at Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh today.


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