Weaving within a Lane -- Probable Cause for a DUI Stop in California?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Nov 17, 2009 | 0 Comments

It actually depends. Unless there is “pronounced weaving” for a “substantial” distance, witnesses by a “seasoned” officer, the answer will be no. Good news for many California DUI suspects.

This is because many officers will admittedly pull over suspected drunk drivers because they are weaving within their lanes. This, the police believe, is a DUI cue, warranting further investigation.

But courts have held that this does not rise to the level of probable cause that is necessary to pull a driver over for suspected California DUI charges. “Probable cause” means a reasonable belief that criminal activity is or was taking place. With respect to driving, it means that the officer reasonably believes that a driver is or has committed a traffic infraction or violation.

Weaving within a lane isn't in and of itself a violation…and, as a result…isn't sufficient to justify a traffic stop. Because of this, weaving within a lane won't typically give an officer probable cause to stop you for a California DUI.

If weaving within your lane was the reason you were pulled over and investigated for a DUI, be sure to tell your California DUI defense attorney. He/she will ask the judge to suppress (that is, to exclude) any evidence obtained as a result of such an illegal stop. In other words, even if you were DUI, weaving within your lane just might be your “get out of jail free” card. (Refer to our article, "Five things never to do if you are pulled over in California.")

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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