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Constitutional Issues in Somerset DUI Cases

There are several constitutional issues that can come into play in a DUI case, and an experienced Somerset DUI lawyer will help protect you against any breach of your rights. The Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments are in play with any case involving driving under the influence.

For example, the Fourth Amendment to the constitution protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. Typically, if you are asked for consent to conduct a search of your vehicle, you have the right to refuse and the vehicle can only be searched if it is considered to be reasonable under the circumstances.

Applicable Amendments

The Fourth Amendment is involved any time a police officer asks a defendant for permission to search the car or if the officer conducts a search of a car. There will be some sort of argument later on as to whether or not that search was reasonable if the search results in items being seized that the state wants to introduce against the defendant.

As to the Fifth Amendment, it protects people from making statements that are incriminatory against themselves. Therefore, people cannot be forced to answer questions. Even if they do choose to answer questions, they are fully within their rights to request counsel before they speak or, more often, to speak on their behalf.

In DUI cases, the Fifth Amendment will apply, but a police officer pulling a driver over and having a conversation with the driver does not fall under this provision. The initial conversation asking the driver to get out of the car and conduct the field sobriety tests likewise does not qualify. However, once the person is under arrest, the Fifth Amendment does come into play.

Specifically, all drivers’ Miranda Rights have to be read to them once they are in custody and the police officer wants to conduct an interrogation. Typically, the police officer wants to continue to question the driver about something after they have been placed under arrest, and it is very common for the police officer at that point to Mirandarize the driver and then continue to ask questions.

If the driver is placed into custody and asked questions without being Mirandarized first, an argument can be made that any statement the defendant made cannot be used against them in court.

Finally, the Sixth Amendment affords the right to have counsel in certain scenarios. This is the right to speak with and consult with an attorney. It often comes into play if a driver is going to be further interrogated at the police station. They have the right to have counsel with them at that point.

Potential Impact On A Case

Constitutional rights usually protect people from overreaching by the government. In a DUI case, if the police gather actual evidence against the person and they want to use that evidence against the person at a trial, it may be excluded if in the collection of that evidence the person’s constitutional rights were violated.

An example would be if a person is stopped for a DUI, arrested, taken into custody, not advised of their Miranda Rights, and then questioned. If, during the course of the questioning, the driver says something self-incriminatory, that statement, along with all the rest made, would be inadmissible evidence, because the defendant was not made aware of their Miranda Rights.

Usually, the state will want to use the incriminating statement and have the police officers testify about that statement in trial. If it can be shown that the police violated the driver’s Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights in gathering that statement, the court has the ability to exclude the statement and not allow it to be used against the driver at their trial. It is at the trial, typically, where the defense attorney would make an argument to have that statement excluded.

How An Attorney Can Help

If you find yourself facing charges, a lawyer can help you understand the constitutional issues involved as you build a defense together. Such an attorney can guide and advise you as you navigate the often overwhelming court process.