Probable cause traffic stop and a DUI Arrest
Thousands of drivers are stopped and arrested each year for driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs (DUI). If a driver hires a DUI attorney to help them with their case one of the first elements of the case the lawyer will review are whether or not the initial traffic stop was legal and whether the police officers had the legal right to make DUI arrest.
Reasonable Suspicion and Detaining a Driver
Police officers have the legal right to stop and detain a driver if they have reasonable suspicion a driver might have committed a crime. Common driving actions which may create reasonable suspicion can include any illegal driving action or other actions which may not be considered illegal, such as drifting in a lane, driving too slowly, or stopping for no apparent reason.
If a police officer has reasonable suspicion that the driver might have committed an illegal act they may briefly stop and detain the driver for a limited investigation.
Probable cause and a legal DUI arrest
A higher level of proof is required; however, if a police officer decides to arrest a driver for driving under the influence (DUI). This burden of proof is defined as probable cause.
While the difference between reasonable suspicion and probable cause is very subtle, it’s important to understand. Probable cause is established if the officer has sufficient evidence to suggest a driver most likely committed a crime, where reasonable suspicion is the notion that a crime might have been committed.
Under the Constitution, police cannot conduct a legal search or deprive someone of their liberty without probable cause. Having probable cause does not guarantee, however, that a person will be convicted of wrong-doing. Probable cause simply ensures against unlawful searches and seizures, a right which is guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Establishing Probable Cause for DUI Arrest
As mentioned above, police officers cannot make a DUI arrest until they have probable cause for the arrest. A police officer has probable cause when the officer has knowledge of facts that would lead a “reasonable person” to believe that a particular individual is committing a crime or is about to commit a crime. The officer must also be able to articulate the information and facts surrounding their argument for probable cause.
The police officer may establish probable cause for a DUI arrest through all of the following:
-Results from performing a field sobriety test -Information obtained from questioning the driver -Information gathered from statements the driver made voluntarily -Results from a preliminary alcohol screening device -Observations of alcohol containers in the vehicle -Physical observations of impairment -Physical observations of an odor of alcohol on the driver’s breath, red or watery eyes, or a flushed face.
Challenging Probable Cause
If you have evidence that your DUI stop or DUI arrest was conducted without reasonable suspicion or probable cause, you may be able to challenge your DUI arrest by requesting a probable cause hearing. If your DUI lawyer can prove reasonable suspicion did not exist for the stop and detention or that probable cause did not exist for the arrest, the evidence gathered may be suppressed. In some cases you may also be able to have the DUI charges reduced or dismissed.
Police officers are not allowed to stop drivers without reasonable suspicion that the driver might have committed a crime. DUI arrests, however, will require a higher burden of proof, referred to as probable cause. If police act without meeting the burden of proof for the stop, detainment, or DUI arrest the evidence gathered or the charges may be dismissed.