Save for at a DUI/DWI checkpoint, a police officer may only stop you if he or she has a reasonable suspicion that you committed or are in the process of committing a criminal activity. The criminal activity can be something as minor as failing to yield or something as major as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If an officer has reasonable suspicion to stop you, he or she may only detain you for a brief period to investigate. If during the initial investigation, the offer has reason to believe you have drugs or alcohol in your system, he or she may then administer a breath or field sobriety test. Regardless, the whole process must begin with reasonable suspicion. According to FindLaw, if an officer does not have reasonable suspicion to stop you in the first place, the courts may have no choice but to dismiss your case.
What constitutes “reasonable suspicion?”
Reasonable suspicion is any activity or indicator that gives the officer an inkling that you committed, are about to commit or are in the process of committing a crime. In terms of a DUI/DWI stop, the officer may develop reasonable suspicion through observation of you doing any of the following:
- Turning illegally
- Driving the wrong way down a street
- Straddling the centerline
- Braking frequently
- Driving erratically
- Stopping for no apparent reason in the middle of the road
- Nearly hitting an object or another vehicle
- Drifting in and out of lanes
An officer can develop reasonable suspicion of drunk driving after a stop as well. For instance, say an officer stops you for rolling through a stop sign. He or she may intend to write you a traffic ticket but then, upon speaking to you, smell alcohol on your breath. The scent of alcohol is reasonable suspicion enough to further investigate.
Does reasonable suspicion constitute an arrest?
Reasonable suspicion is not enough for an officer to make a DUI arrest. Just because an officer sees you swerve does not mean he or she can take you down to the station and charge you with a DUI/DWI. To make an arrest, the offer must have probable cause.
Probable cause simply means that the officer gathered enough evidence to suggest that you most likely committed the crime in question. Following a DUI stop, evidence may be in the form of breath test results that indicate your BAC is 0.08% or higher, field sobriety test results that indicate you are intoxicated or an open bottle in your vehicle.
Regardless of all the evidence an officer may or may not have against you if your stop did not begin with adequate reasonable suspicion, the officer had no right to make an arrest. Talk to an attorney regarding how reasonable suspicion may affect your case.