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Were reasonable suspicion, probable cause present in your arrest?

You have found yourself in a predicament in which you face criminal charges for driving under the influence. After the initial panic and anxiety, you may now find yourself thinking more clearly and looking to find out how to best handle your situation. As with any criminal allegation, you have the right to create and present a criminal defense against the DUI charge.

The manner in which you approach your defense may depend on the particular details of your case. Therefore, you may want to begin by assessing the specific actions that took place leading up to and during your arrest. In some cases, officers may make mistakes during the process or may not have had reasonable suspicion for stopping you in the first place.

Reasonable suspicion

Before law enforcement officers can stop a driver for drunk driving, they need to have reasonable suspicion that the person is impaired or for simply making a traffic stop. This means that another separate violation, like having a broken tail light, needs to have occurred, or the driver needs to have displayed some type of concerning behaviors. Some actions that may give officers reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle include:

  • Braking frequently or unnecessarily
  • Failing to remain in your lane of travel
  • Making an illegal turn
  • Coming to a stop in the roadway
  • Hitting or almost hitting other vehicles or objects on or near the road
  • Driving in both lanes

Other actions or concerns could also raise an officer's suspicions, such as speeding or failing to adhere to traffic signals. This means that even if an officer stops you for something completely unrelated, if he or she suspects impairment on your part, he or she could still conduct an investigation to determine whether you are intoxicated.

Probable cause

While all an officer only needs reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle, he or she needs probable cause to actually make an arrest for DUI. Probable cause comes after the officer has obtained evidence to support the suspicion that you have driven under the influence. This type of evidence may include breath test results, sobriety test outcomes or even aspects of your physical appearance and behavior.

Your defense

If you believe that an officer did not have reasonable suspicion to make the initial traffic stop or probable cause to take to you into custody for DUI, you could use that information as part of your defense. In most cases, if these standards have not been met, any evidence resulting from the stop may be considered inadmissible in court.

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