Pages Navigation Menu

Law

Understanding Reasonable Suspicion And How It Can Help Your Case When Charged With DUI

Being arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), also known as driving while intoxicated (DWI) in some locales, is not only humiliating, it can also be a devastating personal experience. The consequences of a DUI conviction range from loss of driving privileges to high fines to even jail time in some circumstances. That is why it is critical to vigorously fight for your acquittal if you have been arrested due to police error or misconduct. If you have been wrongly arrested and charged with a DUI, then you owe it to yourself to understand what should be done to protect your rights. One way you can defend yourself is by identifying the specific actions where a police officer may have failed in their duties; in fact, one of the most common mistakes made by police is not having reasonable suspicion when making a stop and DUI arrest. Below is more information on this important legal principle and how it can help you defend yourself from unlawful prosecution:

Before you may be legally pulled over for any cause, police officers must have a reasonable suspicion or probable cause that a crime or offense has occurred. The United States Constitution, as well as laws within many of the fifty states, prohibit pulling over drivers at random. The only exception permissible is for the purpose of checking drivers at a DUI checkpoint, and even then, proper procedures must be followed for the check to be legally valid.

When an officer pulls over a driver for DUI, they must be able to articulate a lawful reason for the traffic stop. It is important to keep in mind that reasonable suspicion does not have to be related to DUI, however, as any valid reason for the stop is sufficient to guide the officer to the next level of probable cause. That means a stop for a broken tail light, expired license plate or speeding, for example, are all legitimate exercises of reasonable suspicion; once the driver is pulled over, the officer may legally shift their investigative focus to possible intoxicated driving.

However, there are countless situations where a police officer may not pull over a driver simply because the standard of reasonable suspicion is not met. Below are a few examples where a traffic stop would be unlawful for lack of reasonable suspicion:

  • Stops based on driver age, race or other identifiable attributes – Reasonable suspicion cannot be claimed if a police officer pulls over a driver due to their own personal attributes. For example, it is not a lawful stop if a black driver is pulled over in a predominantly white neighborhood, and a possible DUI arrest from that point forward would be unlawful.

  • Stops based on a hunch or guess – Even though it may be a reasonable hunch to pull over a driver at 3 AM on a lonely stretch of highway, with an assumption they are likely intoxicated, there is still a lack of reasonable suspicion and subsequent arrest is unlawful. Police officers are not permitted to use hunches or intuition as a substitute for reasonable suspicion.

  • Stops based on a mistake in interpretation of the law by an officer – The courts have held that police officers must accurately interpret and enforce the law for reasonable suspicion to exist. Should a mistake be made in the application of the law and a traffic stop occur, then whatever was the basis for reasonable suspicion is invalid. For example, if you are pulled over because you don’t have a front license plate, but the law in your state does not require a front license plate, then reasonable suspicion cannot exist.

If you are facing a legal battle because of a DUI arrest and believe the police officer did not exercise reasonable suspicion, then the most important thing you can do is contact a knowledgeable attorney from a firm like Winstein, Kavensky & Cunningham, LLC. They can provide you with critical legal guidance and help craft a skillful defense to acquit you of DUI charges that should have never been brought in the first place.