Police officers must have a valid reason to conduct a traffic stop. The established protocol for initiating a stop is reasonable suspicion. The police officer must see something that could make a reasonable person believe that there might be an illegal activity occurring.
The standard of reasonable suspicion is much less strict than that of probable cause, which is the standard that must be present to conduct an arrest. Probable cause means that a reasonable person would conclude that a crime was committed or is going to be committed.
What is reasonable suspicion for a drunk driving stop?
Officers on patrol may see certain things happening that make them think a driver isn’t in an appropriate condition to drive. They can conduct a traffic stop to determine what’s going on. Some of the more common reasons for them to pull over a vehicle include:
- Braking frequently and without reason
- Straddling the center lane or swerving
- Driving erratically or too slowly
- Failing to obey traffic signs and signals
- Making illegal turns or failing to use turn signal
- Hitting or almost hitting things that are on the side of the road
After the officer stops the vehicle, they’ll make contact with the driver to determine what’s happening. They may ask the driver to take a chemical test or a field sobriety test. The results of these tests help the officer decide if they should arrest a driver or not.
It’s also possible that a drunk driving arrest will come after a traffic stop for an unrelated issue, such as having a crack in the front windshield that obscures the driver’s line of sight. Motor vehicle crashes are another incident that could lead to a suspected drunk driver being arrested.
Anyone who’s pulled over for drunk driving should explore all their options for a defense. Working with someone familiar with these matters is crucial. Violations of your rights can have a profound impact on your defense, and you might be able to poke holes in the prosecution’s case if you can show that established protocols weren’t followed during your case.