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Constitutional Issues in Henrico DUI cases

The Constitution and constitutional rights play an important part in the way a traffic stop, or a DUI arrest, are conducted. There are certain rights guaranteed by the Constitution, which must be respected in order for a DUI stop to be considered legitimate. The most common constitutional issues seen in cases in Henrico are probable cause and Fourth Amendment arguments. Basically, in Henrico County, a DUI attorney can challenge the probable cause, and therefore the constitutionality, of a stop or an arrest of an individual on a DUI.

Fourth Amendment Protections

The Fourth Amendment grants an individual protection from improper search and seizure. The issues that can be raised with a Fourth Amendment argument are those that concern improper search and seizure: that the officer did not have probable cause to conduct the stop; the officer did not have probable cause to conduct DUI investigation; or the officer did not have probable cause to arrest the individual on suspicion of DUI.

In order for a search to be constitutional, the officer needs to show probable cause or reasonable articulable suspicion, or they would need to show that the search was conducted subsequent to an arrest. With probable cause and reasonable articulable suspicion, the officers need to show that there was some indication of criminal activity. It could be either that they smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle, they saw a pipe in the vehicle, or they based the search on an individual’s behavior.

Search and Seizure

Search and seizure is the search of a person or the person’s property and the seizure of evidence therein—whether that is the breath, blood, or drugs and alcohol on the person.

Unreasonable Search

An unreasonable search is a search where an officer did not have reasonable articulable suspicion to search a person or didn’t have the probable cause to conduct such a search.

A Warrantless Search

A warrantless search is the search an officer conducts after an arrest. For instance, if an individual is arrested on a DUI, the officers can search an individual and the vehicle without a warrant, after that arrest has been made.

Fifth Amendment Protections

While the Fourth Amendment plays the biggest role in the constitutionality of traffic and DUI stops, some other constitutional issues in DUI cases result from Fifth Amendment issues. Typically, these are individual statements that an individual may make to an officer when that person has not been read their Miranda warning, or has not heard his or her rights.

How Courts Treat These Issues

The courts in Henrico County will follow the rulings of the United States Supreme Court, first and foremost. They will then next follow the Virginia Supreme Court if the issue is not addressed by the Supreme Court in situations involving probable cause or constitutional arguments. It goes down the chain—first it follows the rulings and precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court, then the Virginia Supreme Court, and so on coming down.