Though it may be difficult for the younger generation to believe, there was a time in the United States when drinking and driving was only considered a serious offense if someone was injured as a result. Times have definitely changed. Today, the drinking and driving laws in most states are considerably harsher and the penalties more severe, even for a first time offender. The State of Nebraska is no exception to these general rules. Given the intense focus on getting intoxicated drivers off the nations roadways it is easy to understand why people are under the impression that law enforcement officers have carte blanche to stop any motorist, at any time, and for any reason. Is that really the case though or do the police need a reason to conduct a DUI stop in Nebraska?
The simple answer to that question is yes, a law enforcement officer must have a reason to conduct a traffic stop. The law requires an officer to have a “reasonable suspicion” that a traffic offense or crime has been committed before the officer can stop a motorist. This does not mean, however, that the officer must have reasonable suspicion that the driver is driving under the influence. Often referred to as a “pre-textual” stop, what the law means is that an officer may stop a vehicle on the premise that the officer believes a minor traffic violation has been committed even if the officer is really suspicious that the driver is driving under the influence. For example, an officer could potentially conduct a traffic stop because you failed to use a turn signal or because you have a cracked windshield, both of which are relatively minor traffic violations, when in fact the officer believes you are driving under the influence.
This is where the law gets tricky. Once the officer has you stopped, the officer then needs to have probable cause to hold you there in order to conduct a full-blown DUI investigation. In other words, the officer has to let you go after issuing you a citation unless the officer has additional reason to hold you. Things such as open beer cans in the vehicle, a disoriented driver, or the smell of alcohol on the motorist’s breath might be sufficient reason to turn the traffic stop into a DUI investigation.
It should be clear by this point that the law is very complicated with regard to DUI stops. Whether or not the stop was legal will depend on the precise facts and circumstances of the stop which is why you should always consult with an experienced Nebraska DUI defense attorney if you are arrested and charged with driving under the influence. If the stop was illegal, all evidence gained as a result of the stop, including the results of a chemical breath test, will be inadmissible at a subsequent trial. Generally, this means the State will be forced to dismiss the charges.
Note: One exception to the requirement that an officer have a valid reason to conduct a stop is when the stop is conducted at a DUI checkpoint.
If you have been charged with driving under the influence in Nebraska contact the Petersen Law Office 24 hours a day at 402-513-2180 to discuss your case with an experienced DUI defense attorney.
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