Police officers cannot pull vehicles over on a whim. The officer must have “probable cause” in order to justify the stop – such as swerving, driving with headlights off, or driving too slow indicating that an intoxicated driver and might be behind the wheel – thus probably cause. Failing to have justifiable probable cause for a stop can lead to a judge dropping your DUI charges.
What Is Probable Cause And How Can It Protect You?
Probable cause are indicators that a normal person would see and reasonably understand to be law-breaking behavior. No stop can happen if a police officer has not applied this litmus test to what he or she is witnessing from a driver on the road. This requirement prevents the officer from simply choosing to stop a person just because he or she was out driving around late at night.
To stop you for suspected drunk driving, police must first witness you exhibiting signs of being drunk. Many officers will wait in areas where they know drunk people will hang out to spot anyone who is acting drunk and who gets into a car to drive. After this, the officer must witness the person who got behind the wheel driving in a way that indicates intoxication. Some of these indicators include excessive braking or speeding, driving across lines repeatedly, jerking the car back and forth, or driving well below the posted speed limit.
Once stopped, the officers will conduct a variety of tests to see if driver is intoxicated. They want to see you do simple things to test your coordination and ability to function. Asking for your license and registration may seem routine, but your ability to get into your wallet or purse or into your glove compartment requires fine motor skills. Alcohol reduces your ability to perform such tasks. However, some people just get nervous, and, when this happens, they begin to fumble around. In this event, an officer may take the chance to inspect your vehicle for signs of alcohol or drug use. Finally, they will ask you to step out of the car to conduct roadside tests to further examine your ability to function.
Stop For Other Reasons
The police do not need to witness questionable behavior to pull you over. A taillight that is out, a traffic violation, or potential crime gives them probable cause to pull you over. If you fail to signal a turn or if the light over your license plate has gone out, the police may stop you. Did you take that stop sign at a roll rather than a stop? Probable cause is justified in this case and the police might track you down. If an officer is very detail-oriented, he or she may spot that your headlights are slightly out of alignment, for example, and signal you to stop.
If a police officer failed to see indications of drunken driving or anything else that would give him or her probable cause, the officer has no reason to stop you. If the officer does, you can request a motion to suppress that evidence. Unless the police of prosecution present other evidence, such a motion may end the trial, resulting in the courts dropping your DUI charges.