The Constitution guarantees freedom of movement and protects you against unreasonable searches and arrests. However, if there is an indication that you may be breaking the law by driving under the influence, the police have the right to pull you over. The indication that you might have committed a crime is called reasonable suspicion.
Reasonable suspicion alone is not enough to arrest you. However, it is sufficient for the police to detain you briefly and look into the matter more thoroughly through a brief investigation. They can arrest you if they uncover enough evidence to suggest that you have most likely committed a crime. The term for this is probable cause.
What Are Some Examples of Reasonable Suspicion?
A law enforcement officer may pull you over for something unrelated to intoxication. Perhaps you ran a red light or have a nonfunctioning taillight on your car. Having pulled you over, if the officer observes signs that you may be intoxicated while talking to you, such as the smell of alcohol or marijuana on your breath, slurring of your speech, unsteadiness in standing, or bloodshot eyes, these would suggest that you may be intoxicated, which would give the officer reasonable suspicion.
However, an officer would not have to pull you over for something else first. Irregular driving may be enough to provide reasonable suspicion. For example, the officer may observe you braking frequently, driving noticeably slower than the speed limit, straddling the center line, or nearly missing other objects. Signs such as these are enough to provide reasonable suspicion and justify the officer in taking the next step.
What Happens Next?
Once an officer has reasonable suspicion, he or she can conduct a limited investigation to try to obtain probable cause for an arrest. During a DUI stop, this usually involves performing a breath test to gauge blood alcohol concentration and/or performing field sobriety tests. If you pass these tests, the officer cannot arrest you. However, if you fail, the officer has probable cause and can make an arrest.
Some people think that they can take a third option and refuse the testing. However, because of the implied consent laws on the books in every state, this has consequences as well, and you can lose your driving privileges as a result. Furthermore, the laws of some states allow the arresting officer to obtain a warrant for testing from a judge via mobile app.
If you do not believe that an officer had reasonable suspicion for a DUI stop, an attorney may be able to make that determination. Contact a DUI lawyer, like from Morales Law Firm, to arrange a consultation.