Powerful Advocacy,  Investigation, Negotiation, and Litigation

Understanding probable cause in DUI stops

On Behalf of | May 29, 2024 | Criminal Law |

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense, and law enforcement officers are vigilant in identifying and stopping drivers who may be impaired. However, understanding the legal complexities surrounding DUI traffic stops can be daunting. One crucial aspect that often comes into play is the concept of “probable cause.” But what does that exactly mean?

What is probable cause?

Probable cause is a legal standard requiring a rational basis that justifies a law enforcement officer’s decision to make a traffic stop, search or arrest. In the context of DUI, this is the officer’s reasonable belief that the driver is intoxicated. This is not merely a hunch but is based on specific facts that intoxication is affecting the driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely.

How is probable cause established in DUI stops?

DUI stops often begin with a traffic violation. The officer must observe some action suggesting that the driver is under the influence. Speeding, swerving, running on red light or other traffic violations can be valid reasons for a stop. Additionally, the driver’s slurred speech, the smell of alcohol coming from the vehicle and visible alcohol containers or drug paraphernalia inside the car can all contribute to establishing probable cause.

The importance of legal guidance

A DUI arrest can lead to serious consequences, including hefty fines, license suspension and even, imprisonment, which can profoundly impact your personal and professional life. DUI laws are complex, and understanding whether an officer had probable cause can be challenging. If you find yourself stopped for a suspected DUI, knowing your rights can significantly impact the outcome of your case. An attorney experienced in DUI cases can challenge the circumstances surrounding the stop, assess whether a probable cause exists and ensure the protection of your rights throughout the legal process.