When Can the Police Stop a Vehicle?

Traffic Stops, Accidents, Parked Cars

Police encounters with *DUI suspects can occur under many very different scenarios. In most circumstances, the police witness a vehicle in moving traffic while on patrol. They may also encounter a drunk driving during an accident investigation or while a vehicle is parked without ever actually witnessing anyone drive the vehicle. If you or a loved one is charged with a DUI, contact ABDO LAW for a same day appointment and immediate attention to your case by lawyers with the highest national ratings.

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CALL: Metro Detroit: 586-412-5555 or Toll Free: 844-Got-Abdo

The 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees individuals the right to be free from unreasonable government intrusions. This includes protection from unreasonable or illegal intrusions that occur upon being arrested, being searched or upon pulling over while operating a motor vehicle.

DUI = Catchall Abbreviation for ALL Driving Under the Influence Offenses

*DUI is the predominant abbreviation used by DUI defense lawyers and the public when referring to all Michigan offenses associated with driving under the influence including: OWI (.08 more), OWVI (operating while visibly impaired), OWI with High BAC (.17 or more), Super DUI, OWPD (operating with the presence of drugs), OUID (operating under the influence of drugs/prescription drugs) and Zero Tolerance (u/age 21 with BAC .02-.07).

Police Must Have Valid Reason to Interact with DUI Suspects

A recent accident, a vehicle parked in an area open to the public or a valid traffic stop is required when making an inquiry for driving under the influence.

Valid Traffic Stop: A vehicle can be pulled over for any violation of the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code. If the person is suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) following a traffic stop, the individual will be arrested and asked to submit to a chemical test for alcohol and/or drugs.

There are numerous provisions within the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code related to driving (speeding) and non-driving (improper license plate) activity that can be used to support a traffic stop. There are also provisions in the Michigan Traffic Code that can be broadly construed, or abused, to support a traffic stop such as "impeding traffic" or "sudden acceleration".

Traffic Stops for Reasons other than Unsafe Driving: A vehicle does not have to be actively driving dangerously to support a traffic stop. Traffic stops and subsequent criminal charges for DUI have been upheld based upon the following scenarios:

  • Trailer hitch obscuring view of license plate.
  • Air freshener hanging from rear view mirror obstructing vision.
  • Entering an intersection on a yellow light.
  • Tinted windows.
  • Defective Equipment (cracked tail light cover).

In 2014, the United States Supreme Court (Heien vs. North Carolina, 135 S Ct 530 2014) broadened the powers of police by supporting traffic stops made upon reasonable mistakes of law.

Accidents/Disabled Vehicle/Parked Car: A person can be charged and convicted with DUI if the police have probable cause to believe the suspected party "operated" the vehicle or had the ability to do so. The police officer is NOT required to have an "eye witness" account of the vehicle being operated or driven on a public road.

Anyone on the open road has the potential to have an encounter with a cop. Even stationary vehicles may be investigated and charges pursued for DUI based upon direct or circumstantial evidence. Our DUI defense lawyers have represented clients charged with DUI in Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and St. Clair Counties in every one of the following situations:

  • Vehicle and driver found at an accident scene.
  • Vehicle off the roadway stuck in mud or snow.
  • Vehicle on the side of the road while a flat tire is being repaired.
  • Vehicle parked in a parking lot (fast food restaurant).
  • Vehicle parked on a side street in a legitimate parking space.
Prosecutor Must Prove "Operation" of Vehicle"

Michigan's drunk driving laws require proof of "operation" of a vehicle by the accused party. Proof of actual driving is not required. The term "operating" encompasses conduct that goes beyond the act of driving. Courts have found individuals guilty of DUI that are found in a parked vehicle because of the potential ability to "operate" or control the vehicle and place others in danger. Operation has even been found when the DUI suspect is sleeping in the vehicle with the keys in the ignition and allegedly has the means to put the vehicle in a position to endanger the public. The issue of "operation" is one that the courts are constantly asked to define. It is also a hotly contested issue in defending DUI cases. Unfortunately, the trend in Michigan is to broaden the definition or "operation" in connection with DUI cases. When the issue of operation is weak, we will bring it to the attention of the judge by filing a motion to dismiss or at trial for the jury to consider. Operation, along with other elements of a DUI, must be proven by the prosecutor BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT.

ABDO LAW relevant DUI links for your convenience:

Legally Difficult to Expose Illegal Traffic Stops

Unfortunately, the police do not always play by the rules and have been known to pull over vehicles without probable cause if criminal conduct (involving DUI or drug crimes) is suspected. Police practices of conducting a traffic stop for some vague, marginal or non-existent reason when the police are really looking for something bigger is called a pretextual stop. Pretextual stops are a disgrace to criminal and DUI defense attorneys but the practice is widely utilized by law enforcement officers.

When legal grounds for a traffic stop are not evident or the issue of operation is in dispute, we will back test the police report by ordering the videos (in-car, body-cam) and scrutinizing the evidence for inaccuracies. If the evidence raises doubts about the validity of the traffic stop or operation, there may be grounds for motion to dismiss, an acquittal or for a substantial reduction in the DUI charge.

DUI Defense Lawyers: Email or Call for Free Consultation

EMAIL or CALL Abdo Law for a FREE CONSULTATION. Phone messages after business hours are forwarded to our attorneys. We offer same day, evening, weekend appointments and the ability to retain us over the internet. Payment plans and all credit cards accepted.

CALL: Metro Detroit: 586-412-5555 or Toll Free: 844-Got-Abdo