On your way home from an evening with friends, you pass a police car. The officer instantly hits the brakes, and you know the traffic stop is coming before he even turns around. When the lights come on, you pull over to the side of the road.

During the course of the stop, the officer determines that you have been drinking. You get arrested. After the arrest, they use it as a reason to search your car. That’s when they find illegal drugs in the trunk.

There are a lot of factors that go into a case like this. Were you actually intoxicated? Were the drugs yours? Did the officers have a right to search your car? No case is simple, and you need to know where you stand.

But let’s start with the beginning of the entire event: the traffic stop. Was it legal?

Probable cause

Remember, random stops are typically illegal. If they weren’t, police officers could pull over anyone they wanted, without reason. That’s not justice. It’s not fair to those who may face discrimination based on age or ethnicity.

Instead, police need probable cause. This means they have a reason to believe they need to stop you before they do. It’s not random.

Examples of probable cause include:

  • Breaking the speed limit
  • Driving with a broken tail light
  • Not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign
  • Swerving all over the road
  • Breaking any other minor traffic laws

In your case, the police may use the DUI allegations as the reason to search your car. Without that, they never would have found the drugs in the trunk.

But everything really started earlier than that. Did they even have a right to pull you over? Did you do anything to make the officer think you were intoxicated?

Whether you were or not isn’t the point. They have to believe you are before the stop. If they pull you over for no reason, the evidence they get after the stop may get thrown out. This could include, in your case, the results of the breath test and the drugs they discovered.

You can see how important it is to understand your rights. The whole case against you hinges on those pieces of evidence. If police obtained them illegally and should not have stopped you, their case falls apart in a hurry.

Legal options

As such, you never want to assume that the police followed proper procedures. Instead, you need to understand exactly what they’re allowed to do, what steps they have to follow and what legal rights you have in Georgia.