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What does reasonable suspicion for a drunk driving stop mean?

When you are accused of drunk driving, you have to figure out what options you have for your defense. In some cases, one of the options that you have is calling the reason for the traffic stop into question. Generally, a police officer has to have reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop.

What is reasonable suspicion?

Reasonable suspicion means that the officer saw something that made him or her believe that you were breaking the law. This can be anything from driving too slowly, driving too fast, applying the breaks often, crossing into another lane, making an illegal turn or any other violation of traffic laws.

What happens when a law enforcement officer has a reasonable suspicion?

The officer can initiate a traffic stop based on reasonable suspicion and then temporarily detain you while conducting a brief investigation. If that investigation provides the officer with information that might indicate you are drunk, the officer can do a breathalyzer test or a field sobriety test. The officer must establish probable cause in order to initiate an arrest.

What is probable cause?

Probable cause means that the officer has evidence that can show that the driver was probably drunk. This is a higher standard than the reasonable suspicion standard that is required to initiate the traffic stop.

While there isn't always a reason to call these standards into question, it is almost always a good idea to determine if the standards were met during the traffic stop and arrest. If these standards weren't met, it might be possible to use that information in your defense.

Source: FindLaw, "What is Reasonable Suspicion for a DUI Stop?," accessed Oct. 23, 2015

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