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How does reasonable suspicion affect DUI cases?

On Behalf of | Jun 10, 2020 | DUI Defense

Many drunk driving cases stem from a police officer pulling a person over and determining the driver is impaired. The question that can come from this is whether the officer had a reason to initiate the traffic stop. From a legal standpoint, the requirement for stopping a vehicle is a lot lower than the one for arresting a person.

In order to conduct a traffic stop, the officer needs to have reasonable suspicion that a crime, drunk driving, is occurring. The burden of proof for this can be a low as seeing something that makes them think that the person is impaired. Some common signs that they’ll look for include:

  • Speeding or driving very slowly
  • Swerving or straddling the centerline
  • Braking frequently and unnecessarily
  • Failing to obey traffic signs and signals
  • Turning illegally or improperly
  • Not having the headlights on when necessary

Once the officer has the vehicle pulled over, they will try to determine what’s going on with the driver. They might conduct a field sobriety test and an interview. A portable breath test might also be used to preliminarily determine the blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If there is evidence that you’re drunk, the officer will arrest you. In order to do this, they must have probable cause, which has a greater burden of proof than reasonable suspicion.

There are times when reasonable suspicion and probable cause may come into question as part of your defense strategy. For this reason, you should discuss the entire situation surrounding the traffic stop with your lawyer, so they can review the circumstances and determine if there is anything that might be helpful to your defense.