This DUI blog is the furthest thing from a political blog. However, on occasions, political issues affect DUI cases in ways that are not necessarily intended. A perfect case in point is the passage of SB1070, Arizona’s new immigration bill.
Proponents of SB1070 argue that racial profiling will not occur as a result of the new law because police officers only stop and interact with people who are committing a crime. What the proponents of the law are referring to is a standard known as “reasonable suspicion.”
In essence, the standard requires that police officers have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that some criminal activity is taking place before they can initiate a stop of a person or vehicle. The criminal activity that needs to be suspected encompasses lots of things- even an alleged traffic violation, which includes mechanical defects like the little light above a license plate being dim (yes, I have seen that in practice a few times).
Although it should be noted that other standards can apply for the police to initiate a stop, this standard is applied often and will be the standard used to enforce the new immigration law.
The practical reality is that most police officers can find something wrong with a person’s driving or vehicle, such that the person could be lawfully stopped under the reasonable suspicion standard.
Add the fact that the majority of Arizona police vehicles, especially those given to DUI enforcement officers, have had the dashboard video cameras removed from them (at the expense of Officer safety), and the reality is that blatantly illegal stops could be, and have been, upheld as constitutional.
The Arizona courts have seemingly allowed this erosion in rights because it has mainly been DUI defendants raising the problems with the enforcement of the reasonable suspicion standard- and the reality is that few courts have sympathy for criminal defendants.