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Reasonable suspicion: A Critical factor in drunk driving stops

On Behalf of | Jul 3, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Police officers have a duty to keep the roads safe. One way they do this is to keep drunk drivers off the road, but that’s not always an easy undertaking. In order to conduct a suspected drunk driving stop, the officer needs to have reasonable suspicion. 

The standard of reasonable suspicion is a fairly low standard, but it’s a vitally important component for these stops. In order to meet this standard, the officer must observe something that would lead a reasonable person to draw the conclusion that the driver is impaired. 

What can lead to reasonable suspicion?

There are several signs of impaired driving that can lead an officer to stop the vehicle. Some of these include:

  • Braking without any valid reason
  • Driving through red lights or stop signs
  • Swerving between lanes
  • Straddling the centerline
  • Failing to turn on headlights when necessary

There are other signs the officer might see that could provide reasonable suspicion. In some cases, contact with an impaired driver stems from a situation like a motor vehicle crash or a violation of the motor vehicle code.

Once the officer stops the vehicle, they’ll take steps to determine what’s going on with the driver. This may include conducting an interview with the driver, conducting a field sobriety test and asking the driver to take a chemical test.

If the officer’s investigation provides probable cause, they can arrest the driver. At that point, the driver needs to start thinking about their defense strategy. Working with someone who can help them go through the possible defense options may help them make decisions about how to proceed.