Posted by Phillip Crawford | May 04, 2020


The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights, ratified on December 15, 1791, added to the Constitution specific guarantees of personal freedoms and rights and clear limitations on the government's power. The fundamental purpose of the amendment is to guarantee the privacy, dignity, and security of persons against certain arbitrary and invasive acts by officers of the government. In 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment applies to the states by way of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Stated simply, the Fourth Amendment protects your right to be left alone. The Fourth Amendment is supposed to prevent the police from bothering you for no good reason. If you aren't doing anything wrong, you should be free to go about your business without worrying about being stopped, questioned, searched, or arrested by the police. If you are driving on the street or highway, the police can only pull you over if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that you have violated the law. Unless they have a warrant, the police cannot arrest you unless they have “probable cause.”

If an attorney can convince a judge that the cops violated your Fourth Amendment rights, the evidence should be suppressed (meaning the prosecutor can't use it against you in court).  That can lead to the criminal charges against you being reduced or dismissed entirely.

Unfortunately, for over forty years, court rulings at the state and national level have tended to weaken our right to be left alone and to increase the power of the police to stick their noses in your business. This trend toward less personal liberty and more police power began in 1968 with the case of Terry v. Ohio. In that case, a police officer saw Mr. Terry and two friends pacing in front of a store and thought they were “acting suspiciously.”  The officer frisked Mr. Terry and found a pistol in his pocket. Mr. Terry was arrested and eventually convicted of carrying a concealed weapon. The U.S. Supreme Court decided that Mr. Terry's right to be left alone had not been violated. Because of this case, whenever the police stop and frisk a person on the street, the interaction is referred to as a “Terry stop.” See:

The U.S. Supreme Court continued the assault on the Fourth Amendment in April 2020 in the matter of Kansas vs. Glover. In that case, Deputy Mehrer saw a pickup truck on a Kansas street. Deputy Mehrer did not see anything unusual about the driving. For an unknown reason, Deputy Mehrer decided to run the license plate number through the police computer system and discovered the owner of the truck, Charles Glover Jr., had his driver's license revoked. The Deputy didn't know whether Mr. Glover was the person he saw driving the truck, but he decided to stop the truck anyway.

As it turned out, Mr. Glover was behind the wheel. He was arrested and eventually convicted of driving while his license was revoked. The U.S. Supreme Court decided that Deputy Mehrer had not violated Mr. Glover's right to be left alone when he stopped the truck. See:

It is a common misconception that the job of a defense attorney is to “defend criminals.”  Actually, defense attorneys assist and counsel people accused of crimes and defend the Constitution of the United States and the California Constitution when the government seeks to expand its power to stick its nose into your business.  This is challenging and honorable work. Despite the obstacles placed before us by judges and prosecutors, we have successfully argued and won many Fourth Amendment challenges in DUI cases.

For instance, in the case of People v. S.J., our client was stopped by a Monterey police officer for a minor traffic violation and arrested for DUI.  Her breath tests showed an alcohol level of 0.18, more than twice the legal limit.  We were able to convince a judge that the police officer had unnecessarily prolonged the detention of our client.  All the criminal charges were dismissed.

In the case of People v. S.P., our client was stopped by Marina police for a minor traffic violation.  The police conducted a DUI investigation and arrested her for DUI and refusing to take a blood or breath test.  We convinced the judge that the police didn't have good reason to arrest her.  The criminal charges were dismissed.  Our client paid a fine for running a red light and went on her way, without a criminal record.

Police officers are human beings and every human being makes mistakes.  When those mistakes violate your constitutional rights and lead to a criminal prosecution, you need an effective advocate to stand up for you in court.  No law firm on the Central Coast can match our record for fighting for the rights of those accused of driving under the influence.

Don't give up without a fight.  Give us a call today and let us fight for you.

About the Author

Phillip Crawford

Phillip Crawford is an award-winning DUI attorney. In 2018, he won the California DUI Lawyer's Association's top honor when he received the President's Award for excellence in DUI defense. His sole focus is defending DUI cases. Phillip is regarded by judges, prosecutors and fellow defense attorneys as the top DUI in the area who fights passionately for his clients.

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The Crawford Law Firm has been committed to its clients for over fourteen years. With offices in Monterey, Santa Cruz, and Salinas, CA, our focus is DUI and criminal cases in Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara counties.

Free consultations are by appointment and we here to ease your mind and fight for you. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.