Can I be pulled over for “weaving” or “swerving” in California?

Have you ever been pulled over and detained by a police officer who told you that they were reasonably suspicious because you were “weaving or swerving”? Did the officer then search your car or arrest you for driving under the influence?

Most people are not aware that there are no sections in the Vehicle Code that prohibits weaving. Weaving within your lane or even touching the dividing lines is not a violation.

However, Section 21658 of the California Vehicle Code is known as a “Lane Straddling” violation:

“Whenever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic in one direction, the following rules apply: (a) A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from the lane until such movement can be made with reasonable safety.”

However, in 2002, the decision in a 9th Circuit case, United States v. Colin, states that to violate a lane straddling statute you must do more than simply touch the dividing line.

Therefore, an officer cannot justify a traffic stop on a violation of Vehicle Code section 21658 if the driver is weaving within their lane, even if they touched the dividing line.

On the other hand, the Courts in California have held that pronounced weaving within a lane for substantial distance provides “reasonable suspicion” for a stop. In the case of People v. Perez (1985) the following occurred: an officer observed a driver weaving within his lane two feet in each direction for approximately ¾ of a mile. The Court found that there was a “reasonable suspicion” of intoxication and held that “pronounced weaving within a lane provides an officer with reasonable cause to stop a vehicle on suspicion of driving under the influence when such weaving continues for a substantial distance.”

If a police officer said that he/she pulled you over because you were weaving, I will take a close look at whether the weaving was legally considered weaving over a substantial distance. If it isn’t substantial, a suppression motion must be made to suppress the evidence. Suppressing the evidence will have all evidence against your case thrown out based on the fact that there wasn’t a valid reason for you to be pulled over.

William Daley is an experienced criminal defense and San Diego DUI lawyer with over thirty years of experience. Call THE LAW OFFICE OF WILLIAM DALEY at (619) 238-1905 to set up a free 30 minute consultation today!

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