Interviewer: Do task force traffic stops commonly run into issues where law enforcement didn’t have probable cause
to stop somebody?
Munoz: Well, what we look for on task force cases is that police officers are so focused on pulling people over they think are impaired, that sometimes they really will make stops that may not legally establish what we call reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop.
To have reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop, an officer must have a suspicion that you’re either committing a crime by doing something suspicious. He/she must have reasonable suspicion that you’ve committed some traffic violation like running a stop sign, not having your headlights on, or swerving.
He must have something like that pull you over, and sometimes they’re so aggressive in their investigations they’ll pull people over without a legitimate reason and when they do that, that is the first thing we attack.
Interviewer: So when someone’s pulled over as part of a DUI task force, they shouldn’t necessarily feel that they’re going to be convicted, right? Because it was a DUI task force investigation, they’re just as defensible, maybe even more so than regular traffic stops?
Munoz: Yes. A DUI task force case arrest can be defended because these cases are usually quicker investigations and they’re similar to an assembly line way of stopping and charging people.
What we do is we attack the reason for the stop, we attack the reason for the arrest, we attack the field sobriety tests, we go through all of these different things to see if we can find holes in the state’s case.
Interviewer: Let’s say someone’s pulled over and they’re arrested by a DUI task force. Do they go anywhere different from the police station vs. regular DUI arrests? At what point do they know something different is happening versus the normal traffic stop and arrest?
Munoz: Well, if an officer, after talking to you on the road, tells you that you’re being placed under arrest, you should know. The task force is different than a police station, it’s usually a series of what looked like motor homes lined up. They usually have you sit outside, then bring you in these motor homes, ask you questions, and usually ask you to take a blood test or a breath test. So a person should be pretty aware of that they’re likely under arrest for DUI at this point.
Interviewer: I didn’t know if it was important that people should know about any differences DUIs, the testing, or any of those.
Munoz: My advice to people is if they are confused during any stage of the process, once an officer has stopped them, is instead of going along thinking that you have to answer the officers’ questions, the first thing you should tell the officer is that they do not want to answer questions or take any tests until they get a chance to speak to an attorney.