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Reasonable Suspicion in DUI Cases

Drunk Driving Defense Lawyer Representing Defendants in the Phoenix Area

Police can pull you over when you are driving in Arizona if they have a reasonable suspicion that you have violated a traffic law or were involved in a crime. Even a minor infraction can give rise to a reasonable suspicion. However, a reasonable suspicion must be more than a hunch. If there was no reasonable suspicion in your DUI case, that may be strong grounds for us to get evidence suppressed. James E. Novak is an experienced Phoenix DUI lawyer who previously worked as a prosecutor. He understands how prosecutors think about reasonable suspicion in DUI cases and can use his insights to your benefit.

Reasonable Suspicion in DUI Cases

Under the Fourth Amendment, people are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures. If there is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, the exclusionary rule kicks in and requires that the evidence obtained as a result of the violation be suppressed. The police are allowed to stop and briefly detain you for investigative purposes if they have a reasonable suspicion that can be supported by facts that they can articulate that criminal activity is afoot. This standard is lower than the standard of probable cause; you can be detained even if an officer does not have probable cause to believe that you perpetrated a crime.

To determine whether there was a reasonable suspicion, the court will review the totality of the circumstances, or the whole picture of what happened at the time of the events giving rise to the DUI charge. The officer is supposed to obtain from the whole picture an objective and particularized reason for suspecting you of criminal activity. In other words, the police officer who pulls you over must be able to state objective and specific facts that made him or her suspicious that you had broken a law. For example, if the police have a reasonable suspicion that you committed a burglary, they can pull you over. They need not suspect a DUI specifically.

Often, reasonable suspicion in DUI cases is based on a traffic violation perpetrated because of intoxication. For example, if you were recklessly weaving through traffic on the highway, the police officer might see you driving unsafely and pull you over. Once an officer pulls you over, he might notice your smell and watery eyes and require you to blow into a breath test device. You might need to perform field sobriety tests. If you fail, you might be arrested for DUI. The reckless weaving would likely be considered an appropriate basis and would support the rest of the detention.

However, sometimes police officers pull drivers over simply on a hunch. When a police officer does not seem to have the reasonable suspicion needed to stop you, the legality of the stop can be challenged through a motion to suppress.

Motions to Suppress

When we take on a DUI client, we review the facts to decide whether it is appropriate to challenge the stop. A reasonable suspicion in a DUI case may be based on speeding, a failure to stop at a stop sign or stop light, erratic or reckless driving, a tail light that is not working, drifting over the center line, or driving in multiple lanes. If these reasons or similar reasons were not present, your attorney can look at whether your Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures was violated and bring a motion to suppress if so. Traffic stops also become unlawful seizures if they are prolonged beyond the time reasonably necessary to complete the goal of issuing a ticket for a violation. If you know that you were not in violation of the law that the officer has stated as the basis for pulling you over, you should bring this to our attention so that we can look more closely.

Consult a Skillful DUI Defense Lawyer in the Phoenix Area

It may be appropriate to challenge whether there was a reasonable suspicion in your Arizona DUI case. If you have been arrested for DUI, you should call skillful criminal defense attorney James E. Novak. Mr. Novak represents people charged with crimes throughout the Phoenix area, including in Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert, Scottsdale, and other cities in Maricopa County. Call him at (480) 413-1499 or complete 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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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.