Concept Of Community Caretaker
A DWI Defense Lawyer In South King County Explains The Concept Of Community Caretaker.
What does “community caretaker” mean?
Put simply, it means that an officer who thinks you might be in trouble can investigate without a warrant. Your PDWI defense attorney in South King County might say that it could be considered a court-authorized part of his responsibility to serve and protect.
How does it work?
Normally, before a police officer can stop or detain you, the officer must have a genuine reason to believe that you are engaged in or are about to be engaged in some kind of illegal activity. In other words, there must be what the courts call an “articulable and reasonable suspicion” that you are breaking the law. Under the concept of community caretaker, however, the courts have given officers authority to investigate if they think you are in trouble or need help without any suspicion of wrongdoing.
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How does this apply to a DUI case?
Suppose an officer sees a car by the side of the road and finds the driver slumped down behind the wheel. The lights are off, the motor is still engaged and the officer is worried. Is the driver in a coma or has he simply fallen asleep? When the officer is unable to rouse the driver by tapping on the window he believes the driver is unconscious and opens the door to check. At this point the officer sees that the driver is inebriated. Was the officer justified in opening the car door? According to the Montana Supreme court, in which a state similar case was decided, yes. The officer was acting as a community caretaker, and thus was within the scope of his duty.
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Can the officer go any farther?
The law allows an officer with justifiable reason to believe that someone is in danger, distress or some other difficulty, to investigate the situation and take such actions as are necessary to provide help or remove the danger. Indeed, that is the officer’s duty. However, once it is determined that there is neither danger nor a need for assistance, no further action on the part of the officer can be taken without due process under the Montana and Federal constitutions.
Be sure you understand your rights
Was your DUI stop lawful under the community caretaker exception? Be sure your rights have been properly observed by a DWI Defense Lawyer in South King County. If you haven’t contacted a lawyer, contact us now.
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