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Probable Cause

Police obligations and what it could mean for your DUI case

What separates the United States from third world police states? Two words: Probable Cause. Simply put, this is what keeps police from detaining or investigating citizens for no reason. Law enforcement is required to have reasonable suspicion that something illegal is occurring to question someone. For example, if a police officer witnesses a person from a different nationality driving a vehicle, they cannot legally pull that person over just on the basis of their skin color. They have to witness this person doing something wrong such as speeding or driving without an inspection sticker on the vehicle. The police cannot pull you over without a rational explanation!

Also, let’s say a witness has called police stating that she witnessed a vehicle driving erratically. Using this tip, the police decide to head out looking for a vehicle that matches the woman’s description. The officer cannot pull you over just because they spotted you. They have to witness you driving the vehicle and observe you doing something wrong.

Was I lawfully pulled over?

Deciding what actually qualifies as probable cause can get pretty complicated, but police often cite basic traffic violations. Speeding, broken lights, failure to use blinker, erratic driving, expired plates or inspection, collision, loud exhaust, or failure to obey traffic lights are all common reasons to be pulled over. After approaching the vehicle, the officer may request that you perform Field Sobriety Tests (FST) or submit to chemical testing. In order to request these actions from you, they must have reasonable belief that you were drinking and driving. They are to look for signs of intoxication such as alcohol containers in the vehicle, the smell of alcohol in the car or strange behavior from the driver. Only then can they begin their DUI investigation. If the officer feels you failed your field sobriety test and your chemical test, you’ll be charged with DUI.  

What happens if police stopped me without probable cause?

It’s possible for your DUI charges to be completely dismissed! DUI lawyers handle issues like this on a daily basis. General family attorneys can be great, but a DUI is serious and requires the knowledge and expertise of a lawyer specializing in DUI law. Discuss your case with a DUI attorney today!