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Probable Cause in DUI Cases

DUI Attorney Helping Phoenix Area Residents

Probable cause is the standard that is required for law enforcement officers to make arrests that relate to DUIs as well as other criminal charges. This standard arises under Fourth Amendment Case Law. The Fourth Amendment provides for the right of people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures in their houses, papers, persons, and effects, and that no warrants can be issued without probable cause. Probable cause in DUI cases is sufficient to get an arrest warrant or for police officers to make arrests where they see the crime being committed. A seasoned Phoenix DUI lawyer can assess whether probable cause issues may provide a basis for a defense in your case.

Probable Cause in DUI Cases

There are two standards that are very important in DUI cases. One is the reasonable suspicion standard. If an officer has a reasonable suspicion that you are driving under the influence, he can pull you over briefly. However, reasonable suspicion wouldn't allow you or your car to be searched in most cases. It is also not enough to arrest you. A reasonable suspicion is a common sense conclusion about human behavior, but it is something more than a hunch. A police officer must have articulable reasons to believe that a DUI was in the process of being perpetrated, had been perpetrated, or would be perpetrated soon.

Probable cause is a higher standard than reasonable suspicion is. The standard that is applicable will have different effects on your rights and the appropriate law enforcement protocol and the outcome. Probable cause means that the circumstances indicate a crime has most likely been committed.

Probable Cause for Arrest

To arrest you for a DUI, a police officer needs to have a good faith belief that a DUI was committed and that you committed this crime. So, first, in order to pull you over, the officer will need a reasonable suspicion of a DUI, but in order to actually arrest you he needs probable cause. If there was no reasonable suspicion or probable cause associated with the events leading up to your arrest, these can be the basis of a very strong defense that your criminal defense lawyer can help you to develop.

Evidence That Supplies Probable Cause

Evidence that may be enough to justify you being arrested for a DUI can vary. You cannot be arrested on a hunch in most situations. Often probable cause is established through police testimony about what they observed prior to the arrest.

One piece of evidence that could give rise to probable cause is when a driver simply admits that he or she was drunk. So, if you say, "I know, I shouldn't be driving while drunk" or "I only had a couple of beers," these might give rise to probable cause. If someone else is in the car with you or witnessed how drunk you were and provides a witness statement to that effect, this might also constitute probable cause.

Another piece of evidence is your driving conduct prior to being pulled over. If an officer saw you weaving or drifting across lanes of traffic, or not coming to a complete stop at stop signs, his testimony about these actions may help to establish probable cause.

What a police officer observes after pulling you over can also establish probable cause. For example, if you weren't able to walk in a straight line and there's no other explanation, or you are slurring your remarks or your eyes are red or you smell like alcohol, these observations can give rise to probable cause in a DUI case.

Similarly, what is in plain view in the car may give rise to probable cause. For example, if there are open alcohol containers in plain view or alcohol is spilled on your shirt, this is evidence that may constitute probable cause. Other evidence can involve field sobriety tests and portable breath tests that provide positive test results for alcohol.

Breath tests often provide sufficient evidence to constitute probable cause. Arizona is an implied consent state and refusing to take a breath test can result in a warrant for your arrest.

Consult an Aggressive DUI Defense Lawyer in Phoenix

Sometimes there are pretrial motions you can bring to attack evidence that the police officer believed constituted probable cause. A motion to suppress can be a powerful tool to attack probable cause in DUI cases and get charges dismissed. Sometimes it is not possible to win a motion to suppress, but casting doubt on the prosecution's evidence related to probable cause may allow you to secure a strong plea deal. James E. Novak is a former prosecuting attorney who aggressively defends people charged with drunk driving throughout the Phoenix area including Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, and Maricopa County. Contact him at (480) 413-1499 or via our online form.

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I was facing criminal charges with three priors in my history. Mr Novak was very helpful and got me a lighter sentence than I probably deserved. He is a great attorney and I would highly recommend him. A. T.
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James worked tirelessly behind the scenes with the prosecution, to decrease my son’s charges to a more reasonable penalty. I could not have asked for a better, more professional attorney. He treated my son with the utmost respect and walked him through every step of a very difficult situation. S. G.
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Attorney Novak did an outstanding job defending my son. Due to his extensive professional background within the court system, he was successfully able to defend my son during a very difficult time for my family. I highly recommend Attorney James Novak for your legal needs. T. G.