Drunk Driving

If you have spent a good amount of time driving, you probably know that you should never drive while drunk, as it has been reiterated for you over and over again. By far, this is the most important rule that every driver needs to abide by. However, have you ever wondered how police officers determine whether someone is driving while intoxicated? It is pretty easy to tell when someone is very drunk, but it can be a lot harder when someone is just a little bit over their limit. This simple guide will go over the process officers use and explain how it takes drivers’ rights into account.

Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause

There are two things that a police officer needs to make an arrest — reasonable suspicion, and probable cause. This applies to DUI arrests as well. These requirements are meant to protect citizens who are not breaking the law. In order for an arrest to happen, the officers need to follow a set progression. Reasonable suspicion is needed first, and then probable cause can only be established afterward. Finally, an arrest can only happen after probable cause is identified. If any step is skipped, or if the steps happen out of order, the charges will likely be dropped.

Taking a Closer Look

Let’s take a closer look at these two concepts. Reasonable suspicion is essentially just a reason to be suspicious. This is needed before an officer may investigate a citizen for any wrongdoing. In the context of a DUI, reasonable suspicion is needed in order to pull a driver over. If there is no reasonable suspicion, any evidence of driving drunk that is found after pulling a driver over is invalid. Reasonable suspicion could be driving erratically, hitting objects, driving too fast or slow, or having a broken tail-light.

Once reasonable suspicion has been found and the driver has been pulled over, the officer will begin looking for probable cause. This is tangible, solid proof of a crime. For the crime of driving while intoxicated, probable cause may be empty alcohol containers, drunken behavior, a failed sobriety test, or the smell of alcohol on a driver’s breath. Reasonable suspicion is not enough to make an arrest; there needs to be proof.

If you suspect that your arresting officer did not follow this sequence correctly, tell your DUI lawyer, like a DUI lawyer in Fairfax, VA. Your legal representative might move for changes to be dropped, or it may simply force the court disregard a particular piece of evidence.

Thanks to May Law, LLP for their insight into how police determine if a driver is too drunk.