What Is Reasonable Suspicion and How Does It Apply to DUIs?

DUI Charges

Anyone who is accused of driving while under the influence of alcohol has certain rights. The arrest needs to follow a proper progression, and if this process is not adhered to, there might be cause for all charges to be dropped. You probably have heard the terms “reasonable suspicion” and “probable cause” before, but many people do not really understand what these concepts are or what they mean. This guide will explain everything you need to know on the subject.

Reasonable Suspicion

Reasonable suspicion plays a role from the very beginning of a DUI. This is something that a police officer needs to have prior to pulling anyone over for any reason. Reasonable suspicion is exactly what it sounds like — a reason to be suspicious. If the officer does not have a reason to pull a particular car over, nothing the officer discovers as a result of pulling the car over can be used to incriminate the driver. Examples of reasonable suspicion include:

  • Driving erratically
  • Driving too fast or too slow
  • Colliding with objects or other cars
  • Not using turn signals
  • Broken brake lights

Essentially, the police cannot pull cars over at random, hoping to find someone breaking the law. You may note that not all of the above examples of reasonable suspicion relate to intoxication. The charge that is eventually filed does not have to be related to the reasonable suspicion the officer initially had.

Probable Cause

Once an officer has pulled over a car, an arrest cannot be made without probable cause. Unlike reasonable suspicion, which is just a reason to be suspicious, probable cause has to have tangible proof that a crime was committed. Any probable cause that was discovered without reasonable suspicion is invalid. Examples of probable cause for a DUI include:

  • The smell of alcohol on the driver’s breath
  • Empty alcohol containers in the car
  • Drunken behavior or slurred words
  • A failed sobriety test

To be perfectly clear, this absolutely means that someone can be arrested for a DUI without taking or failing a sobriety test. It also means that an arrest can be made even if the driver passes a sobriety test. As long as there is some probable cause that driving while under the influence of a mind-altering substance, the arrest is valid. If there is no probable cause, however, chances are high that the case will be thrown out entirely. This is just one rule that protects civilian’s rights to fair treatment and trials. Contact a DUI attorney, like a DUI attorney in MD, if you think you might have a case against your DUI. 

Thanks to The Lawfirm of Frederick J. Brynn, P.C., for their insight into what reasonable suspicion is and how it applies to a DUI.