While DUIs are not that unusual, most people might not realize the legal process of a DUI stop with law enforcement. The police cannot pull over drivers at random or based on mere hunches. Such a stop would be considered a violation of your rights.
The police must have reasonable suspicion that a driver is intoxicated to pull them over for a DUI. Reasonable suspicion does not always fit a precise definition but must include real and articulable evidence, not instincts or gut feelings. Things like erratic driving or other signs of intoxication may contribute to reasonable suspicion. Some DUI stops, such as checkpoints, do not require reasonable suspicion.
If you were recently pulled over for a DUI, contact our Philadelphia DUI defense lawyers for assistance right away. If the police lacked reasonable suspicion, the stop might be deemed unlawful. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 for a free case review.
Requirements for the Police to Pull You Over for a DUI
Before the police can pull someone over for a DUI, they must find reasonable suspicion to support the stop. The requirement of reasonable suspicion prevents officers from stopping people for random, arbitrary, or unlawful reasons. If the police cannot identify any suspicious behavior, they cannot pull over a driver for a DUI.
If police officers pull someone over for a DUI without reasonable suspicion, the entire stop can be invalidated. Any incriminating information they obtained or observed can be suppressed and may not be used against the defendant. This can include things like slurred speech or an odor of alcohol on the driver’s breath. Our Bucks County criminal defense attorneys can review the details of your stop and identify any unlawful police actions.
Reasonable suspicion is not a very high burden to meet and is lower than the probable cause required for an arrest. The police might be able to pull over a driver based on reasonable suspicion, but if they cannot find anything else, they have to let them go.
What Is Reasonable Suspicion for a DUI Stop?
There is no exact definition of reasonable suspicion. What constitutes reasonable suspicion may change based on the circumstances. In any case, the police should be able to point to real and articulable evidence or proof to support their reasonable suspicion.
When determining whether they have reasonable suspicion to stop a driver for a DUI, the police must consider the totality of the circumstances. This may include the time of day, road conditions, the driver’s behavior, and the officer’s own experience with past DUI cases.
Essentially, almost anything could contribute to an officer’s reasonable suspicion that a driver is intoxicated. Reasonable suspicion must be real and explainable, not a police officer’s hunch that something is wrong. Even if the police can point to something real and suspicious, it must reasonably suggest that a DUI stop is necessary. If it is not reasonable, it cannot be used to justify a DUI stop.
For example, a vehicle moving unusually slow late at night may provide reasonable suspicion for a DUI stop. A vehicle moving unusually slow while the roads are very icy is not reasonable suspicion and is easily explainable. Clearly, the driver is going so slow to avoid sliding on the ice, not because they are intoxicated.
Signs of Intoxicated Driving Police Can Use to Stop You for a DUI
Although reasonable suspicion for a DUI stop can include a wide variety of evidence and behavior, there are some tell-tale signs of intoxication that the police look for when making a DU stop. If you do not believe the officer who pulled you over had any reason to do so, call our DUI defense lawyers for help.
Reckless driving is a common reason the police pull over drivers. Reckless driving may be driving that is dangerous or erratic under the circumstances. For example, driving at an extremely high rate of speed while weaving between lanes might be considered reckless driving. While the police might also suspect a DUI, a driver does not need to be intoxicated to be cited for reckless driving.
The police may have reasonable suspicion that a driver is intoxicated if that driver is quickly speeding up and then slowing down. This behavior is common in intoxicated drivers whose motor skills and reflexes may be impaired. Similarly, a driver weaving in and out of traffic or drifting from one lane to another may also allow a police officer to make a DUI stop.
While these kinds of observations may allow a police officer to pull a driver over for a DUI, they do not always allow the officer to make an arrest. Probable cause, which requires more evidence, is necessary for an arrest.
Being Stopped by the Police for a DUI at a Checkpoint
DUI checkpoints are frequently employed by police departments all over the country to apprehend intoxicated drivers. Generally, the police do not need reasonable suspicion to stop drivers at checkpoints, but they do need probable cause to arrest.
Checkpoints must be based on a real need. The police cannot set them up randomly or on a whim. For example, suppose the police notice an increase in intoxicated drivers causing traffic accidents on Saturday nights along a specific stretch of road. In that case, they have a good reason to set up a DUI checkpoint.
Law enforcement officials also need a system for conducting stops. While reasonable suspicion is not necessary, there must be a system in place that prevents arbitrary stops. For example, the police might stop every third driver who comes through the checkpoint. This allows for adequate DUI screening without the risk of arbitrary or unlawful stops. If you believe your DUI checkpoint stop was unlawful, contact our Delaware County criminal defense lawyers immediately.
Once a driver is stopped at a checkpoint, the police may look for signs of intoxication like slurred speech or an odor of alcohol. This may contribute to probable cause for an arrest.
Call Our DUI Defense Attorneys for Assistance
If you were recently pulled over for a DUI, you should talk to a lawyer about your case right away. If the officers involved did not have reasonable suspicion to make the stop, we might be able to suppress evidence. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 for a free case review.