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Reasonable suspicion’s role in drunk driving stops

On Behalf of | Feb 20, 2023 | DUI Defense

People often wonder what causes police officers to stop vehicles when they’re out patrolling. Sometimes, the reason is clear. This is the case when someone is speeding or failing to obey traffic laws. But, the reason for a traffic stop might not always be that clear. 

Police officers will sometimes stop a vehicle because they see something that points to the driver being impaired. In order to conduct the traffic stop, they have to see things that a reasonable person would consider signs of drunk driving. This is considered reasonable suspicion.

What are some common signs of drunk driving?

Drivers who are impaired tend to drive unsafely. Some of the more common things they may do include:

  • Speeding or driving too slow
  • Failing to stop at stop signs
  • Turning without a signal or illegally
  • Swerving or crossing the center line
  • Braking without reason

Other signs might also be possible. In some cases, the driver is involved in a crash that results in them coming in contact with the police. This could be the factor that leads to the drunk driving investigation.

In all cases, “probable cause” has to be more than an officer’s “hunch,” but it stops short of being “probable cause,” which requires proof. Instead, reasonable suspicion tends to rely on the officer’s common sense and experience. While that’s not a high bar, it does mean that an officer cannot stop someone on a whim or just because they don’t like the look of their vehicle. Examining the probable cause for a traffic stop is part of any solid defense strategy.

Anyone facing drunk driving charges must ensure they explore their defense options. This should be done quickly because some options you have might be time sensitive. Working with someone familiar with these matters may help you to determine how you want to proceed.



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