What is 'Probable Cause' for a DUI Stop?

Ever wondered if cops can legally park outside of a drinking establishment and wait for patrons to exit the bar and drive away so they can catch them drunk driving? It sounds like a logical way for police to save precious time trolling the streets for drunk drivers, but it’s not exactly legal.

Law enforcement can conduct a DUI stop only when they have reasonable suspicion that the driver broke a traffic law or is driving under the influence. If an officer believes you committed a crime or traffic law, he or she can detain you to conduct a brief investigation.

If the officer notices evidence of DUI, they will try to gain probable cause to make a DUI arrest. This means they have established grounds for arresting you for DUI. Such evidence includes:

  • You smell like alcohol
  • You are slurring your words
  • You are acting drunk
  • You have an open bottle of alcohol in your vehicle
  • You admit to drinking
  • You are being rude and belligerent

Without reasonable suspicion, the reason for your traffic stop can be questioned in court. For example, police pulled you over without a good reason and noticed the smell of alcohol on your breath. You failed field sobriety testing and you were arrested on suspicion of DUI.

Since the police didn’t have a valid reason to conduct the original traffic stop, a good DUI attorney may be able to get your case dismissed.

What counts as reasonable suspicion?

The term "reasonable suspicion" refers to any circumstance that leads a law enforcement officer to believe that you committed a crime. This crime is not always drunk driving. Some DUI arrests start with a speeding ticket or other traffic infraction.

Common forms of probable cause:

  • Illegal turns
  • Driving without headlights at night
  • Drifting in and out of lanes
  • Almost hitting other cars or objects
  • Driving too fast or too slow
  • Stopping without cause
  • Running a red light or stop sign
  • Frequent braking
  • Driving over the center line

Did the officer have probable cause to stop you?

Now that we have discussed “probable cause,” we want to discuss your DUI arrest. What was the reason for the initial traffic stop? Think, what did the officer say when he or she first walked up to your vehicle?

Did they say you were speeding? Did they say you ran a red light? Or, did they say you were weaving and they suspected you were drunk driving?

Or, did you end that traffic stop on a bad note? Were you baffled by the stop? Did you feel as if you did NOTHING wrong to deserve being pulled over?

If you felt like the police were harassing you because they had nothing better to do, it’s time to contact our office and take a second look at that traffic stop. You may have a viable DUI defense if there was no probable cause to stop you.

We urge you to contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. to fight your DUI charges!

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