Reasonable suspicion and probable cause in a DUI

by | Jul 30, 2020 | Dui

If you are pulled over by the police, your first question may be, “Why are you stopping me?” If the police then arrest you and charge you with driving while under the influence (DUI), you may again ask why?

If charged with a DUI offense, you need to understand the difference between reasonable suspicion and probable cause. These are the whys a police officer requires if they issue a DUI charge.

What is reasonable suspicion?

Reasonable suspicion requires that the officer has reason to believe you “might have” committed a crime. It allows them to detain you for a short period only.

What is probable cause?

To arrest someone, a police officer must have probable cause. They must have enough facts or evidence to believe you “most likely” have committed a crime or about to commit one.

If the police see you weaving across the road, or driving erratically, they could claim “reasonable suspicion” that you are drunk driving and pull you over. Then, if you fail a field sobriety test or breathalyzer test, they could argue they now have the “probable cause” they need to arrest you. However, police often stop people for less clear reasons. Challenging whether the police had reasonable cause to stop you or probable cause to arrest could be critical to your defense. 

One exception to the need for reasonable suspicion is a sobriety checkpoint. An officer can stop you at one of these, without needing a reason, provided they and the control comply with the guidelines. Defending a DUI charge will require the help of an experienced Fort Collins DUI attorney. The police officers will do their best to convince the judge that they acted correctly. It is up to you and your attorney to prove they did not.