Why the Reason for a Stop is Critical to Your DWI Case

by Seth Azria on 12/08/2015

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the rights of the people to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.  The Fourth Amendment protects against arbitrary arrests and is the basis of the law on search warrants, wiretaps, and other privacy law. It  is a central concern of criminal prosecution and defense.

For a DWI case, the Fourth Amendment's protection from arbitrary arrests applies to the reason why a police officer stopped a vehicle. An officer will stop a vehicle for some suspected violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, for example, speeding, or failure to keep right.  But if the stop is arbitrary, not a violation of the traffic law, or is otherwise improper, the People’s case will be significantly weakened or dismissed.

This is why we always closely examine the reason for the stop offered by the police.  

An interesting illustration of this point comes from People v. Bordeau, a case decided in Essex county in 2008. In Bordeau, the police stopped the driver for failure to keep right, a claimed violation of New York Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1128 that prohibits drivers from crossing lane markings on the road “where crossing such markings would be especially hazardous.” In Bordeau, the officer admitted the sole reason for the stop was that defendant crossed a white “ boundary” or “fog” line.

In Bordeau, the Essex County Court, determined that crossing a white line was prohibited only if a specific regulation had been adopted for that particular section of road and that no such regulation in effect at the time of the incident. As a result, the Court held that the stop was improper, precluded all the evidence from the stop, and dismissed the case. 

As illustrated by Bordeau, the outcome of a case can turn on what may appear to be a small factor, such as the difference between a white line and a double yellow line on the road.  

Please feel free to contact us anytime at (315) 364-1155 for a free consultation about your DWI charge.  


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