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Police Performing Community Caretaking Function Can Arrest for DUI

June 6th, 2016 at 8:27 am

Illinois arrest for DUI, community caretaking function, Rolling Meadows DUI LawyerGenerally speaking, police need to have a good reason—probable cause—to make a traffic stop. Otherwise the traffic stop is an illegal seizure under the Fourth Amendment. However, there are limited exceptions to the prohibition against illegal seizures, and one of those exceptions arises when police are acting in their community caretaking function.

Police Officers As Community Caretakers

The community caretaking function of a police officer occurs when an officer engages in an activity, other than the investigation of a crime, that helps those in the community. A few examples include helping lost children find their parents, responding to non-criminal calls such as helping people, assisting with missing person cases, or helping drunk citizens return to their homes (presuming that the drunk individuals are not violating the law).

The Community Caretaker Exception to Search and Seizure

In order for the community caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment to apply, the police officer must be engaging in an activity or job duty other than the investigation of a crime, and the search and seizure must be reasonable and undertaken with the purpose of protecting the public or promoting safety.  

Community Caretaker and DUI Example

Very infrequently does a police officer stumble upon a person who is drunk behind the wheel, but who is not in fact driving. Still, this can happen, and it has happened in the past. In The People v. McDonough, a police officer came across McDonough’s vehicle on the side of the road. The officer stopped to check if the driver was ok. The officer turned on his lights, and proceeded like a traffic stop—he approached the vehicle and asked the driver questions. During questioning, the officer noted evidence of alcohol intoxication on the driver’s breath and asked the driver to participate in field sobriety testing. The driver failed these tests and then refused to submit to a breathalyzer test. McDonough was arrested for DUI, and the Illinois Supreme Court found that the police officer’s stop was not a violation of McDonough’s Constitutional rights because of the community caretaker exception.

When the officer turned on his lights, he engaged in a seizure of the driver. However, since the officer was looking into the vehicle that was stopped on the side of the road as a community caretaker, rather than as an officer investigating a crime, the police officer’s seizure, or traffic stop, was legal. Therefore, the resulting DUI charges were based on a legal stop and seizure. Furthermore, the evidence of the alcohol on the driver’s breath was obtained through a valid search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment community caretaker exception, and thus could not be excluded at trial.

When You Need a DUI Defense Lawyer

There are exceptions to the search and seizure protections offered by the U.S. Constitution. If you are facing DUI charges, please contact a dedicated Rolling Meadows DUI lawyer immediately. We are happy to help you today.

Sources:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/fourth_amendment

http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/opinions/supremecourt/2010/november/109489.pdf

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?ActID=1815&ChapterID=49&SeqStart=81900000&SeqEnd=84800000

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