Posts Tagged With: Probable cause

Stricter DUI Laws in SC?

South Carolina ranks among the top of states for DUI related accidents. The number of DUIs in Myrtle Beach is particularly high which can be attributed to the tourist industry locally.

Emma Longstreet was killed last year on New Years Day in a drunk driving accident. Her parents are fighting today to get Emma’s law passed. The law would require a sobriety ignition test, if you blow above a .02, you won’t be able to start your car. The law also would include stricter penalties for repeat offenders. For more information on the tragic death of Emma Longstreet and Emma’s law, check out: http://www.wmbfnews.com/story/21290061/emmas-law-would-install-ignition-interlock-device-in-dui-offenders-cars.

Most people I have met admit that they have driven drunk at one point in their lives. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it just means, you made a bad mistake. Fortunately, the law recognizes this and your punishment for a DUI can be mitigated with counsel. If you go up against the law by yourself, you may face the worst case scenario penalties. However, if you contact Daniel Selwa, the opposite may result. Contact Daniel Selwa today for a free consultation regarding your case.

Categories: Criminal Defense, DUI | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How your defense attorney can exclude evidence found in your automobile during a search

Most of us have been pulled over by the police at some point in our lives; some of us have had automobile stops resulting in the issuing of a traffic ticket while others have been released with just a warning.  Police Officers must have reasonable suspicion to pull a person over. Reasonable suspicion requires specific and articulable facts taken together with rational inferences from those facts that lead the police to believe that a law is being broken or has been broken by the suspect.

Furthermore, the police may search a vehicle without a warrant.  Generally a warrantless search is per se unreasonable and violative of the 4th amendment. However, there is an automobile exception that allows for the search of a vehicle without a warrant. But, in order to conduct a warrantless search there must be probable cause to believe the automobile contains evidence of a crime and there are exigent circumstances arising out of the mobility of the automobile and its likelihood of disappearing if the search is not executed immediately. The Court will look to the attending circumstances to determine whether the police officer had probable cause to search the vehicle. If the police are to conduct a warrantless search they must only reach to the areas of the vehicle that they have probable cause to believe the contraband or other evidence may be found. If the police illegally obtain evidence (without probable cause) from an automobile vehicle, it is inadmissible in both state and federal courts against the defendant whose rights were taken away.

For example, a police officer may lawfully stop you when he believes you have been drinking based on the fact that you have been swerving all over the road. If the officer finds a beer can in plain view in your cup holder he may then search for more evidence of beer in your vehicle any where beer may reasonably be concealed. But, that is all the police officer may search for, legally. In a recent South Carolina case, State v. Brown, the Court held in this case that a bag which appeared to be a gym bag or a duffel bag used to travel, should not have been subject to the search.  The Court reasoned that the bag was zipped up and appeared to carry clothing. The Court further noted had the bag looked like a grocery bag, the search of the bag would be proper because you would expect to find beer in a grocery bag. In this case, the police officer found cocaine in the duffle bag and sought to introduce the evidence at trial. The court ultimately held the search of the duffle bag was improper and thus the evidence of cocaine must be excluded from trial.

If you have found yourself in a similar situation where a police officer searched containers or areas of your vehicle unlawfully, then contact Daniel Selwa to explore your available options. Where the evidence of an unlawful search is excluded from trial, the charges against you for possession of that contraband must be dropped. Without a skilled criminal defense attorney, you could face serious fines and possible jail time.  Contact criminal defense attorney Daniel A. Selwa, II today.

Categories: Criminal Defense, Search and Seizure | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Facing DUI charges? Know your rights!

Many people mistakenly believe they must comply with all of law enforcement’s requests.  I am here to tell you that you do have rights that allow you to refuse to comply with the law enforcement’s requests to submit to field sobriety tests when you are pulled over for a DUI. You also have rights after a DUI arrest that allows you to contest the DUI charges.

If you are pulled over for a DUI, the police officer must have reason to believe you have been drinking. He may acquire probable cause that you have been drinking based on several indicators including: slow responses to traffic signals, headlights off, turning abruptly or illegally, stopping inappropriately, driving into opposing or crossing traffic, or braking erratically. Note: speeding is not a DUI indicator. Your DUI charges may be dropped if the police officer lacked probable cause to pull you over.

The attending police officer must inform you of your Miranda rights. Most importantly, your Miranda rights include: the right to remain silent, the right to appoint counsel, and the right to have counsel present during questioning. Essentially, this means you don’t have to tell the police officer what bar you just left or how much you have had to drink. You can request an attorney immediately and all questioning must cease. The only information you must give the police officer is information relating to your identification and vehicle such as your driver’s license and insurance.

You also have the right to refuse field sobriety tests. Scientific studies have questioned the accuracy of field sobriety tests. People who are not under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol often have a hard time passing field sobriety tests. Nonetheless, police officers often use field sobriety tests to prove intoxication. By declining to engage in field sobriety tests, you are simply giving the prosecution less evidence to convict you on DUI charges.

Even if the police officer did have probable cause to pull you over, it is quite possible the investigation was conducted in an unlawful manner. After your DUI arrest, you are entitled to a jury trial if you so choose. At trial, you are afforded the right to challenge certain factors including the following: whether or not you were lawfully stopped ad detained, the period of time between arrest and testing, whether or not you were informed of your rights, whether you consented to the alcohol testing and whether the machine was working properly. You may also challenge the DUI charges based on a law unique to South Carolina. South Carolina law requires all DUI arrests to be videotaped. The recording must begin from the moment the police officer pulls you over and must continue until he has completed the arrest. If the arresting officer fails to record the submission of your breathalyzer test and/or the field sobriety test, then you may be able to get the evidence of the videotape suppressed all together and possibly a lighter sentence.

If you are facing DUI charges, contact Daniel A. Selwa, II, immediately. You have constitutionally protected rights during the DUI stop as well as after the stop and DUI attorney Daniel A. Selwa, II can help ensure your rights remain protected. Protecting your rights can mean a lesser sentence or a drop of DUI charges completely.

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