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Can police seek drunk drivers with random stops?

On Behalf of | Oct 24, 2022 | Criminal Law |

Any level of statistical analysis will show the police that there are drunk drivers on the road. For instance, they could look at the total number of DUI accidents for the year. They may also consider the fact that most people have driven drunk before they get arrested or before they get in an accident, so there are likely impaired drivers who will never be counted toward any sort of statistical analysis.

However, knowing that those drivers are out there and that they are difficult to identify, police officers may be tempted to randomly stop vehicles. After all, they are looking for people who are breaking the law by driving under the influence. If they pull cars over and give people breath tests, it makes it easier to find these individuals. Would it be legal to do this?

The police must have a reason for a traffic stop

The short answer is that no, the police cannot make random stops. Drivers have rights under the Fourth Amendment. They can only be subjected to legal searches and seizures, which is what a DUI stop qualifies as. In order to be legal, the police officer has to have probable cause to stop the car.

Remember that this still doesn’t mean that the officer has to know the driver is impaired in advance. It is usually impossible for the officer to know that, even if they suspect it.

But they at least need a minor reason to pull the vehicle over and begin talking to the driver. This could be something as simple as seeing a vehicle driving with a headlight out and deciding to conduct a traffic stop at night. Police officers may also pull drivers over for speeding, rolling through stop signs, changing lanes without signaling or making any other number of minor traffic mistakes.

Are you facing DUI charges?

If you have been pulled over and charged with a DUI, it’s important to know about all the legal options you have, especially if you believe the police violated your rights. Evidence that was not collected legally often cannot be used in court.