DUI Issues: What If There Was Insufficient Cause for a Traffic Stop?

A woman stopped by a police officer
If you're charged with drunk driving, it can have a major impact on your life and livelihood. That's why it's so important to speak with an experienced Phoenix DUI defense attorney. A skilled lawyer can examine the circumstances of your case and help ensure that all of your rights were observed.

Sometimes motorists are pulled over without sufficient cause. That could be ground for dropping charges or adjusting penalties. Let's examine how probable cause and reasonable suspicion figure into drunk driving cases.

Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion for DUI Stops

Probable cause and reasonable suspicion are both key factors involved in traffic stops for drunk driving.

  • Probable Cause – In the context of drunk driving cases, probable cause refers to logical evidence of someone's potential intoxication that warrants a traffic stop. The evidence can take a number of different forms.

  • Reasonable Suspicion – Reasonable suspicion is a much lower bar than probable cause. This is essentially a presumption that a crime has been committed or is being committed based on an informed hunch by the police officer.

Keep in mind that police officers only require reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle. Probable cause is necessary to make an arrest.

Examples of Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion

Below are some examples of actions that may lead to probable cause or reasonable suspicion on the part of law enforcement:

  • Erratic or Reckless Driving – If a person weaves while on the road or drives in a reckless manner, an officer may have reasonable suspicion of the driver's sobriety or state of mind.

  • Admission by the Driver – If during a traffic stop a driver admits to being drunk or makes allusions to being intoxicated in some way, this may be probable cause for an arrest.

  • Witness Statements – Witnesses may report a drunk driver on the road, providing details of the vehicle and the license plate. This can often be a good reason for law enforcement to at least stop a vehicle and question the driver.

  • Failing a Sobriety Test – If a driver fails a breathalyzer test during a stop, this is often considered probable cause for a drunk driving arrest.

  • Refusal to Submit to a DUI Test – By refusing to submit to a DUI test in the field, Arizona law states that drivers will face license suspension for one year, with the officer being able to obtain a warrant for arrest and the motorist to undergo a DUI test.

What If There Is No Sufficient Cause or Suspicion?

There are cases in which a driver may be interpreted as weaving or driving erratically, yet these circumstances may have little to do with intoxication. Roads may be slick or bendy, resulting in issues with vehicle control. The wrong vehicle may be pulled over because of an anonymous tip or due to an officer's error.

When a vehicle is pulled over without any reasonable suspicion, this can be grounds for a legal defense in a drunk driving case. By working with an attorney on these matters, you can craft a sound strategy that emphasizes the nature of the traffic stop and the ensuing DUI charges. This can result in the charges being dropped or for penalties may be reduced. A drunk driving defense attorney can offer sound guidance throughout the legal process.

Learn More About Your Legal Options

For more information about your legal options following a drunk driving arrest, be sure to contact an experienced criminal defense and DUI attorney today. The team at our firm will help you get a fair shake from the law and ensure your rights were not violated.

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