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'Reasonable Suspicion' and DUI

Police officers have the right to stop motorists if there is reasonable suspicion that the law is being violated. Such officer would have to shortly investigate the driver in question, and if there is still suspicion lingering afterwards, then the driver may be subject to a breathalyzer test or a field sobriety test.

This means that every DUI arrest begins with the reasonable suspicion that the driver has been engaging in a criminal activity - even if it doesn't turn out to be the case eventually. What are the common grounds of reasonable suspicion for officers to stop a driver?

  • Making illegal turns
  • Staying between two lanes
  • Straddling the center island
  • Almost hitting other objects, vehicles and pedestrians
  • Switching lanes frequently
  • Erratic and very slow driving
  • Frequent braking
  • Abruptly stopping in the middle of the road for no reason

Note that this is not a comprehensive list, as it lies within the officer on what he considers reasonable suspicion to stop a driver. For example, if the vehicle stopped because it ran out of gas, the officer still has the right to investigate to ensure that the driver is not impaired.

Also, take note that DUI arrests can be made even if the officer did not actually witness the driver driving the vehicle. For example, the driver of a car who crashes with another can still be subject to a field sobriety test to see if he or she was drunk driving.

The difference between reasonable suspicion and probable cause

Reasonable suspicion arises when the officer suspects that there is criminal activity being involved - in this case, driving under the influence. This gives the officer the right to further investigate the individual by subjecting him to sobriety and breathalyzer tests to confirm the said suspicion. If the individual fails in the test, then the officer will not have probable cause to arrest the individual. This means that the officer finds enough evidence that the law was violated, which will now justify the arrest.

The difference between the two is that reasonable suspicion involves signs or indications that the driver is intoxicated or under the influence, but no definite evidence or proof is present yet. As a result, the officer will subject the driver to several tests in order to prove if the suspicion is true or not. Only then will the suspicions be justified and a probable cause is established. Probable cause will need actual evidences to prove that a crime has been committed. Simply put, reasonable evidence suggests that a crime might have been committed, while probable cause suggests that a crime is likely to have been committed.

If you are suspected of DUI or have been arrested because of it, contact a qualified DUI lawyer to ensure that your rights are preserved and that you can best represent your defense in court. The lawyers of The Kyle Law Firm are experts in handling DUI cases and can help you get through yours. Contact us today.

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