When you are accused of driving under the influence in Birmingham, South Side, Titusville or anywhere in Alabama, an automatic license suspension can go into effect. This is an administrative suspension that is triggered by refusing to take a test of your blood alcohol concentration or that is triggered by a test showing a BAC of .08 or higher. The arresting officer must complete the Notice of Intended Suspension (AST-60) form and the form must be notarized and submitted to the Department of Public Safety. You have the right to challenge your suspension in an administrative hearing, but you need to make a written request to do so.
Administrative license suspensions don't occur only in Alabama - they are common throughout the United States when drivers have a BAC above the limit or when motorists don't comply with implied consent laws and take a BAC test with probable cause. Recently, one case involved a question of whether evidence obtained illegally could be used to justify an administrative license suspension. This is an important question that may affect DUI defendants across the state.
Illegal Evidence and an Administrative License Suspension
The recent case arose in North Carolina. It involved a driver who was stopped in her SUV in January of 2013. The driver's vehicle was a blue Ford Explorer and someone had called in to police to report that a blue Ford Explorer was weaving. Police did not observe the driver's SUV weaving but they pulled her over anyway even though her driving was fine at the time when the officer observed her.
After the SUV had been stopped by police, the law enforcement officer stated that the driver smelled of alcohol. The officer asked her to undergo a field sobriety test and she did, failing the test. She was asked to submit to a breath test at that point and refused, after which she was arrested for driving under the influence.
The criminal case against her was thrown out of court because the initial traffic stop was found to be invalid. There was no actual probable cause to stop her, despite the phone call about a similar car. Because the traffic stop was a violation of her Fourth Amendment rights, the court found that none of the evidence obtained during the traffic stop could lawfully be presented to try to secure a conviction. The charges had to be dropped due to lack of evidence.
Despite this, the administrative license suspension remained in effect against the driver. She challenged it, but the DMV said the exclusionary rule that kept the evidence out of criminal court didn't apply to the DMV's administrative suspension proceedings. A trial court said that the DMV had acted improperly in considering the illegally-obtained evidence, but the case was reviewed by the North Carolina appellate court, which said that the DMV could consider the evidence.
There is a strong argument that this is unfair because a driver should not be deprived of her license due to evidence obtained in violation of her rights. Alabama's administrative suspension law requires a lawful arrest to support a suspension, so the results of a similar case in the state should be different. However, drivers still need to be aware of the potential risks that they could face and of how courts are curtailing the rights of DUI defendants. You need to protect yourself and you should do it with the help of a DUI lawyer.
Contact Barclay Law at 866-584-1023 or visit https://www.jmbarclaylaw.com to schedule a consultation with a criminal defense lawyer in Birmingham. Serving South Side, Titusville, Red Mountain, Woodlawn, Ensley and surrounding areas.