DWI stops and reasonable suspicion

On Behalf of | May 2, 2024 | Drunk Driving

Few feelings are worse than the one you get when you see lights in your rearview mirror while driving. While it is apparent that law enforcement is pulling you over, it may not be obvious why the traffic stop is occurring. And when a police officer shares they suspect that you are drunk driving, you may wonder what led them to think that.

Because the consequences and penalties associated with a DWI can be harsh and life impacting, it is vital that you understand your defense options. A good starting point is to understand whether a lawful traffic stop. In other words, was there reasonable suspicion for a DWI stop?

Reasonable suspicion

The basis for reasonable suspicion is that law enforcement suspects that a crime occurred. In regards to drunk driving, a police officer can stop a motorist and briefly detain them for a limited investigation only when the officer has reasonable suspicion of driving over the limit. At this point, the officer is likely to conduct a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer test to establish evidence that supports their reasonable suspicion.

If an officer lacked reasonable suspicion for the initial stop, then this fact can help dismiss any charges that resulted from the unlawful stop. This means that even if it is determined that the motorist was intoxicated and over the limit through a field sobriety test or breathalyzer, the DWI case can be dismissed.

DWI stop

When stopping a motorist for a reasonable suspicion of a DWI, the officer must establish this through observations made of the motorist. This can include straddling the center line, making an illegal turn, violating a traffic law, running a red light, drifting or swerving from one lane to another, nearly hitting another vehicle, curb or other objects on the roadside, driving extremely slow, erratic driving, frequent breaking or stopping in the middle of the road for no apparent reason.

This list is not exhaustive, and an officer can conduct a field sobriety test even if they did not make any observation of their driving. This could occur after an accident or when a driver is found unconscious behind the wheel of a parked vehicle. None the less, the officer needs probable cause to make a DWI charge and an arrest. This means that they have enough evidence to believe that a crime was committed by the motorist.

If you are facing a DWI and believe that an unlawful stop occurred, the officer lacked reasonable suspicion or there was a lack of probable cause for an arrest, then you can use this information in your defense. A legal professional can better explain yours situation and the laws, ensuring you take steps to protect your rights through the best available defense.

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