Five Things You Should Know About DUI and Probable Cause

Law Enforcement Needs Probable Cause to Pull You Over

For a law enforcement officer to incite a traffic stop, he or she needs to have “probable cause” that a violation of the law has occurred. Here are five things drivers should know about Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and probable cause.

1. Probable Cause is Required to Incite a Traffic Stop

Simply put, “probable cause” is when a law enforcement officer has reliable information to support the idea that a person has committed a crime or violation. In the cases of DUI, there is not much information a law enforcement officer needs to have probable cause – the driver swerving between lanes, speeding, driving erratically, or committing a traffic violation is often enough for an officer to incite a traffic stop.

2. Accident/Injury is Suitable for Probable Cause

In the event that a law enforcement officer comes to the scene of an accident, the accident itself and/or injuries to the driver, passengers, or other individuals can act as probable cause for an arrest. The circumstances of the scene, testimony from witnesses, and other information are often enough to give law enforcement officers probable cause to arrest a driver for DUI or another crime.

3. A Traffic Stop without Probable Cause Can be Fought in Court

If there was no probable cause for the law enforcement officer to pull the driver over, later in the legal process the driver can bring about a motion to suppress, which may result in the entire case against him or her being thrown out of court. It should be remembered, however, that it is the driver’s word against the law enforcement officer’s.

4. Bad Behavior Can Add to Evidence of Probable Cause

Drivers must also remember that the law enforcement officer will continue to observe their behavior once the traffic stop has begun, and how a driver acts during this interaction can become added evidence to the officer’s probable cause to pull the driver over in the first place.

5. Traffic Violations Cannot be Used as “Pretext” for DUI Investigations

While a law enforcement officer can pull over a driver for a traffic violation, he or she cannot use the violation alone to launch into any other types of investigations. For example, a driver running through a stop sign or red light does not give the law enforcement officer probable cause to search the driver’s vehicle for illegal drugs, contraband, or weapons.

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