Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause

If you were recently accused of a DUI, or you simply want to know what your rights are in case that ever happens to you, you probably have a lot of questions about how the system works. You may have heard of something called reasonable suspicion. What is reasonable suspicion, and how does it apply to DUIs specifically? This simple guide will go over everything you need to know about this specific aspect of DUI law.

Reasonable Suspicion

Reasonable suspicion is something that a police officer needs to have prior to pulling anyone over. If it is later discovered that a police officer did not have reasonable suspicion to pull someone over, and it led to an arrest, then that individual cannot be charged. Essentially, the accusations are invalid, even if indisputable proof of a crime was later discovered.

So what is reasonable suspicion anyway? It is basically just a real reason to suspect a crime may be broken. It is important to realize that there is not a need for hard proof or evidence to have reasonable suspicion. There just needs to be some reason the police officer suspects wrongdoing. In DUI cases, reasonable suspicion is usually one of the following:

  • Erratic driving
  • Driving very slow or fast
  • Colliding with objects or other vehicles
  • Breaking the rules of the road

While these are common types of reasonable suspicion for DUIs, the reasonable suspicion does not need to be related to the reason for arrest. For example, a police officer may pull someone over for having an expired license plate, and then discover the driver to be drunk and make an arrest.

Probable Cause

Probable cause is the other side of the coin from reasonable suspicion. This is necessary for an officer to make an arrest. Unlike reasonable suspicion, probable cause involves hard evidence. Without some real evidence, an officer cannot arrest someone, and anyone arrested without probable cause cannot be charged. For DUI cases, probable cause may be:

  • The smell of alcohol
  • Empty alcohol containers
  • Drunken behavior
  • A failed sobriety test

It is not enough if an officer simply suspects an individual of being drunk. If you have been arrested for a DUI, you should speak with a DUI lawyer immediately. Additionally, if you suspect that you may have been arrested without probable cause, or pulled over without reasonable suspicion, a capable DUI lawyer should be able to get you cleared of all charges. The first step is to speak to an attorney.

Source: Criminal Defense Lawyer Denver, CO, Richard J. Banta, P.C.

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