As we have discussed previously on our blog, law enforcement officers need reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop upon a vehicle. An investigatory detention of an individual in a vehicle, such as what is conducted in DUI cases after a driver is stopped by an officer, is permissible if supported by reasonable suspicion that the driver has violated the Vehicle Code. Some violations include speeding, weaving between or within lanes, failing to stop at a red light or stop sign, driving with expired registration, talking on a cell phone, and texting while driving, just to name a few. These are all Vehicle Code violations, meaning they are against the law, and provide police officers with "reasonable suspicion" to justify a traffic stop. Committing one of these violations will normally earn you a citation and an appearance date in traffic court. However, if the officer(s) believe that you are DUI you will be detained for further investigation.
Weaving is one of the violations that we mentioned above. Many people ask what the law is regarding weaving. And how much "weaving" constitutes a violation? Vehicle Code Section 21658(a) states that "a vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practical within a single lane and shall not be moved from the lane until such movement can be made with reasonable safety." It is clear that if a driver does not stay within his or her lane, and crosses over into another lane, that this section is violated. But what if the driver weaves within his own lane? We have to look at court cases to answer this question. Courts must look to the specific facts of each case to determine whether a violation has occurred. Some examples when courts found the reason for the stop not to be lawful include the vehicle touching the fog line but not crossing it; an isolated incident of crossing into an emergency lane on a widening road; momentarily crossing the shoulder two times; and crossing the fog line five times over five to six miles. Other times courts have found the traffic stops to be lawful, including a case which the court considered "pronounced weaving" to have taken place. "Pronounced weaving" was defined as "weaving within the lane on an interstate highway over a distance of approximately three-quarters of a mile." Other instances which the court found a lawful traffic stop include a driver who was driving 20 miles under the speed limit and "weaving abruptly from one side of the lane to the other" and a case where the officer observed a driver weaving within his lane for approximately a half mile.
In general, in those cases where the weaving is only for a short distance and is not pronounced or aggravated the courts have held that the driving behavior is not a violation of the Vehicle Code and, therefore, officers would not be justified in stopping the vehicle (e.g., no "reasonable suspicion" for the traffic stop). Police dashcam videos are critical to cases where the basis for the stop is questionable. If the dashcam is activated at the time the officer observes the vehicle, the camera footage will show the vehicle's driving pattern which is alleged to violate the Vehicle Code. If you feel that you were stopped by the police without them having a valid reason for pulling you over, and the stop subsequently led to your arrest for DUI, CONTACT our office today for a free and confidential consultation. Berglund Law Office, P.C. specializes in representing persons charged with DUI. If the stop was unlawful the DUI case against you must be dismissed.