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The police need probable cause for a traffic stop

On Behalf of | Sep 22, 2021 | DWI

When the police pull you over, they need a reason to do so. Much of the time, stops are for simple things: Speeding, rolling through a stop sign or driving with a taillight out. 

This same basic principle holds true for drunk driving stops. In fact, many stops are for unrelated issues, but the officer begins to suspect the driver is impaired while talking to them. Officers cannot just stop random cars to see if the drivers are drunk. These either need an unrelated issue — like that broken taillight — or the officer needs to suspect for some reason that the driver is operating the car in a manner that indicates impairment by drugs or alcohol.

What can the police look for when they make a traffic stop?

To this end, police officers spend time looking for signs of impairment at every traffic stop. These could include:

  • Driving the wrong direction or in the wrong lane
  • Driving in both lanes by straddling the line
  • Making very wide, awkward turns
  • Braking or accelerating quickly
  • Not responding when a light turns green
  • Stopping the car much too far in front of a red light
  • Tailgating other drivers and generally driving recklessly
  • Almost crashing into other cars or stationary objects
  • Failing to turn on the headlights
  • Signaling for a turn and then failing to turn or turning the other way

In other words, officers may see issues that just don’t make much sense, as drivers make mistakes that sober drivers typically just would not make. 

Were you legally stopped?

All of this is good to know about a stop without probable cause may be illegal. If you have been arrested on drunk driving charges and you believe this happened to you, then you must know about all of the options at your disposal. 

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