Just because you got pulled over doesn’t mean you’re guilty of driving under the influence (DUI). And the police might not have had a legal basis to stop you in the first place. While it might not seem like it, police power to pull you over for DUI is limited. If they have no good legal reason to stop you, your case can be dismissed for an illegal stop.
In legal terms, this “good reason” is called either probable cause or reasonable suspicion, depending on the circumstances. Each of these phrases has a precise meaning in the law. Let’s look at what the terms mean in plain English.
Officers can stop you for probable cause if you committed a traffic violation. Think of probable cause as an honest belief that someone broke the law, based on grounds causing an ordinary, reasonable person to reach the same conclusion considering the whole picture. Crossing a lane line, failure to stop at a red light, or even not using a blinker gives probable cause to stop because it violates traffic law.
Officers can stop you for reasonable suspicion you’re involved in criminal activity. Think of reasonable suspicion as reason to suspect someone’s involved in a crime based on the whole picture. The officer must spell out specific, objective facts supporting it—it can’t be “he just looked fishy” or even “I stopped him for DUI on this road before.” Throwing a beer can out your window gives reasonable suspicion to stop because it breaks the littering law.
Just Because the Stop Is Good Doesn’t Mean You’re Guilty
Many DUIs start with traffic violations that are often committed by unimpaired drivers…meaning you may very well not be guilty! Lots of people drive a few miles per hour over the speed limit or forget to signal a lane change. If you’re caught making such a traffic violation, a cop can pull you over for “probable cause” and later decide to arrest you for impaired driving. But he may be completely wrong about the impairment.
Just because the officer could read the title of your story doesn’t mean he knows your whole story. Don’t let him write the last word as “guilty.” If you’re wondering whether your DUI arrest was justified, your instinct probably serves you well. Listen to yourself and schedule a free meeting with us to discuss how we can build a defense to vindicate you in court. You can start a live chat right from our site to get the ball rolling.