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Why don’t police officers just wait outside the bar?

When police departments decide to ramp up DUI enforcement, they’ll often send out more patrols, set up checkpoints or put ads on local TV to influence people to only drive when they’re sober. They want to make more arrests, but they really want to stop drunk driving, so alerting people may help.

But you may find yourself wondering why they don’t just wait outside of local bars. They know when bars and clubs close, and they know that people leaving those establishments may have been drinking. Couldn’t they pull people over as they drive out of the parking lot?

The police cannot guess or assume when it comes to drunk driving

There is nothing illegal about waiting outside of the bar. Some officers may do it. They may also use the advanced enforcement techniques discussed above in areas with many bars and other such establishments. That’s fine.

What they cannot do, however, is simply guess that someone is drunk or assume that they are because they walked out of a bar and got behind the wheel. Every traffic stop requires reasonable suspicion that some law has been broken or direct evidence that one has.

Being in a bar is not enough. If the driver gets in the car and the police immediately pull up, still in the parking lot, the driver has not actually done anything wrong. As a society, we have decided that such random stops are typically illegal.

If the driver comes out of the bar, gets behind the wheel, and proceeds to break the speed limit, then the officer can pull them over. The officer may see evidence that the driver is impaired while talking to them about the traffic violation, and that can turn it into a DUI stop. But the chain of events is important, so officers can’t just pull over every car that leaves a known drinking establishment.

Are you facing DUI charges?

If you have been arrested on suspicion of impaired driving and you’re now facing DUI charges, it is important to know if the initial stop was legal and what defense options you have at your disposal.