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What is reasonable suspicion in a DWI case?

On Behalf of | Oct 14, 2022 | DWI

Have you ever been pulled over by the police, and when you asked them why, they said, “No reason at all”?

It’s not going to happen. The law does not permit police officers to stop people for the hell of it. Hence, if an officer goes on to charge you with driving while intoxicated (DWI) outside of a sobriety checkpoint, they will always tell a court they had a reason to stop you in the first place. This is known as having reasonable suspicion.

Whether or not their reason is valid can make or break your case

The officer needs to have reasonable suspicion that you were breaking, or had broken, the law in order to pull your car over. It could be alcohol-related, or it could be due to something else.

A few examples are:

  • You were speeding or breaking other traffic laws
  • You were driving in a way that suggested you were drunk
  • Your car had an illegal fault, such as a broken light
  • You or your vehicle matched the description of a crime suspect

Reasonable suspicion is just the first step

Once the police stop you, they need to prove they had one more thing before they can arrest you. This is known as probable cause. If they smell alcohol on your breath or see a half-empty bottle of whisky on your lap, that would usually qualify. If you failed a field sobriety or breathalyzer test, that would also count. As might falling out of the car flat on your face.

In many cases, the police do not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Showing that to a court is one  DWI defense strategy to consider.