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Do you know why you were pulled over? -

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Do you know why you were pulled over?

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“Sir, Do You Know Why You Were Stopped?” Part 1

It is the question that each motorist dreads hearing. It is a scenario that no motorist looks forward to being in. New Hampshire police officers are infamous convincing motorists to incriminate themselves. They have undergone hours of training in order to perfect this practice. It is a common misconception that you can “talk” yourself out of a ticket if you admit to a minor offense that doesn’t seem so bad.

However, any admission you make in this scenario will ultimately cost you. Police officers do not invest their time in pulling over motorists for no reason at all; although, it does happen occasionally. Please believe that, if you have been pulled over, the officer knows exactly why he has stopped you. In asking you this question, he or she is making an attempt to see what he can persuade you to admit too. It is a game that all police officers learn in the academy.

On occasion, it does work. For example, a person who is pulled over for speeding might admit to having marijuana in their glove box. A motorist who is pulled over for running a stop sign might admit to having stolen property in the trunk of their car. An officer never knows what a person might admit too. Still, an NH police officer cannot pull a person over for no reason at all. Some type of traffic violation must have been observed. Today, we’re going to discuss the legal concept of “reasonable suspicion” and how it pertains to New Hampshire DWI cases.

Americans often take for granted many of the freedoms we enjoy. Many times, the only time these freedoms cross our mind is when there is discussion about one or more of them being taken away. Accusing a politician of attempting to limit our freedom of religion or freedom of speech can do a considerable amount of damage to their political campaign.

The United States of America is founded upon the legal rights of individuals, and each legal right that is granted to private citizens is designed to limit the powers of the government. For example, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, in theory, is designed to enable American citizens to act as watchdogs over government actions and policies. The U.S. government cannot silence American citizens when it comes to criticizing the government.

The United States Constitution spells out the freedoms and rights American citizens enjoy. Most of these rights were written in reaction to the oppressive conditions that the original colonists were suffering from at the time our nation was founded. One of these basic rights is the ability to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. In the infantile days of our nation, colonists’ property and homes were frequently subjected to government searches and seizures at any time. It was by this scenario that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution was designed and adopted. The Fourth Amendment explicitly states that American citizens cannot be subjected to random and unfounded search and seizures.

The protections afforded to citizens by the Fourth Amendment have been expanded by the United States Supreme Court and applied to traffic stops. In the 1968 landmark case of Terry v. Ohio, the Supreme Court ruled that an individual can be pulled over and detained briefly by a law enforcement official if the officer believes that the person was involved in a punishable crime. If a police officer reasonably believes that a suspect is dangerous or armed, then the officer can legally search the suspect’s person for weapons. This scenario does not violate the protections of the Fourth Amendment. However, the search is required to be brief.

The notion of reasonable suspicion is a capable tool when placed in the hands of persons who aim to limit the unchecked powers of police officers when it comes to intruding on the privacy of private citizens. Choosing to pull over an automobile for no reason at all or for another unacceptable reason is simply not allowed.

When applied to New Hampshire DWI cases and other types of traffic stops, the reasonable suspicion doctrine necessitates that a law enforcement official must possess a valid reason for stopping your automobile. Except under very limited circumstances, police officers cannot pull over motorists at random. They must have observed the motorist engaging in some sort of traffic violation or have other reasonable suspicion that a crime is being (or has been) committed by the motorist in question.

The power to conduct searches and seizures serve as the very foundation of law enforcement, and it is a required tool for police officers to be able to conduct necessary criminal investigations. Without the legal ability to enter a home that is serving as a meth lab and collect evidence, officers would have a difficult time halting criminal activities. However, the Fourth Amendment and all related case law serves to limit these powers in a real sense.

Police officers and other law enforcement officials are required to abide a specific set of rules, and they must be able to capably defend their actions in a court of law. They must be able to testify as to why they entered a residential home or stopped a motorist’s automobile. In general, it is left to the discretion of a New Hampshire judge to determine if an officer’s reason for their actions is compelling and valid. Most judges are not afraid to lay down the law when officers become overly ambitious with search and seizure powers.

However, judges across the country walk a fine line between enabling law enforcement officials to adequately perform their criminal investigations and defending the legal freedoms of private citizens. If a defendant request a hearing regarding reasonable suspicion, then the hearing will either result in the suppression of evidence or in an affirmation of the police officer’s conduct.

We’re going to take a break here today, but turn in tomorrow when we discuss more in depth how reasonable suspicion hearings pertain to NH DWI cases.

In the meantime, if you are in need of a capable and experienced New Hampshire DWI lawyer, please contact our office immediately for a free consultation.

 

“Sir, Do You Know Why You Were Stopped?” Part 2

Picking up from our discussion yesterday, we’re going to take a look at how reasonable suspicion hearings relate to New Hampshire DWI cases.

One of the most prolific arenas from which reasonable suspicion rulings arise if the field of DWI cases. New Hampshire police officers are frequently on the prowl for intoxicated motorists, and in their eagerness, they often overstep the boundaries of reasonable suspicion when stopping a motorist without proper cause.

The reality is that police officers wish to stop almost every automobile on New Hampshire’s roadways after 11:30 pm on Friday and Saturday nights. Persons leaving restaurants, bars, and nightclubs often have been drinking, particularly in the wee hours of the morning. If police officers could legally stop each automobile, then DWIs would be almost non-existent.  However, in the process, they would routinely stop innocent motorists and destroy the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment.

Here is a potential scenario: It is a Friday night on Halloween weekend. A local police officer has parked his cruiser within sight of a local bar. Right before the bar is scheduled to close, the officer observes a couple make their way out of the bar, to their car, and then leave the establishment. The couple begins driving down the road.

Because the police officer has been sitting in his cruiser for over an hour, he knows this couple has been in the bar for some time. He begins tailing the couple’s car – attempting to disguise his presence from the couple. Although he watches the couple closely for any signs that a traffic violation is being committed, the officer begins to think that this motorist might be driving just a little TOO well. In the officer’s mind, this is an instance of “the lady doth protest too much”.

After trailing the couple for several miles, he notices the male driver swerving slightly within his lane. He does not cross any dividers, nor does he leave his lane; however, he definitely swerved. The officer lights his car up and pulls the couple over. He goes on to conduct a DWI investigation and arrests the male for a DWI after observing him stumbling around after he leaves his vehicle.

An experienced New Hampshire DWI attorney will analyze the facts of this particular case and immediately recognize that there is a serious reasonable suspicion issue at hand. The DWI lawyer will file a legal motion with the court to request that the judge determine that whether or not the officer had reasonable suspicion to conduct the stop.

In this particular scenario, the attorney would file a motion to suppress all of the evidence the police officer gathered after the traffic stop was initiated. If a judge ruled to suppress the evidence, it would be the same as having the case dismissed altogether. No seasoned prosecutor would attempt to prosecute a DWI case on the basis of what the officer observed before the stop.

Once the motion has been filed, the police officer would be called upon to testify to their collective experience in the DWI field. He will undoubtedly state that driving “too perfectly” is a sure sign that a motorist is intoxicated. However, is the officer correct? Is this a valid reason? What about the driver’s swerve within his lane? In this instance, there is a high chance that an experienced DWI lawyer would be able to have all evidence suppressed. Of course, this depends upon a number of different factors, but the chances are in the defendant’s favor.

Per the legal definition, reasonable suspicion must be based upon articulable and specific facts as opposed to a mere suspicion or hunch on the part of the police officer. The facts to which a police officer testifies to, when being interviewed in court, are examined not as to what the officer thought or believed, but as to whether or not a reasonable individual, in the exact same scenario, would have thought. Simply put, the police officer’s personal beliefs are irrelevant. What actually matters is whether or not a reasonable individual would have similar beliefs in the same situation. A police officer can also legally stop a motorist if he or she has probable cause to believe a crime has been, or is being, committed.

When it comes to DWI cases, there is only one legally recognized exception to the reasonable suspicion standard: DWI checkpoints and DWI roadblocks.

Law enforcement agencies can establish DWI roadblocks or checkpoints under specific circumstances. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that DWI roadblocks are legal – creating a single exception to the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment. In certain jurisdictions, police officers are allowed leniency when it comes to DWI checkpoints. In others, they are not. Specific New Hampshire judges view roadblocks and checkpoints as a necessary tool in the detection of DWIs, and consequently, they provide police officers with a certain amount of discretion in how checkpoints are set up and conducted.

As one can see, the primary issue in a reasonable suspicion case is not to prevent a police officer from arresting you. Rather, it is to have all of the evidence a police officer gathers after stopping you dismissed. If the evidence in your case can be suppressed, then the case will subsequently be dismissed, and you will never have to appear before a New Hampshire jury. This tool can be quite powerful when placed in the hands of an experienced NH DWI lawyer.

Our New Hampshire DWI attorneys possess quite a number of years of experience and can quickly identify any reasonable suspicion issues that might arise from your case. To schedule a free consultation regarding your case, please contact our law offices today. We will schedule a meeting with you to discuss the facts surrounding your case, outline potential defenses, and explain how your case will progress through the New Hampshire court system. Time is of the essence in DWI cases, so please contact us today.

 

 

 

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Disclaimer: Past results do not guarantee a future outcome. Results include cases in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Attorney Dan Hynes is admitted to practice law only in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. This website may be considered advertising. Contacting us does not create an attorney/client relationship and the information on this site is not legal advice and may be inaccurate or not applicable to your case. Each case is different.

Mailing Address: Dan Hynes PO BOX 598 Merrimack, NH 03054