The Issue of Reasonable Suspicion in DUI Stops

Posted on June 19, 2014

DUI Stops

Much to the chagrin of prosecutors and law officers alike, a police officer cannot simply pull over a motorist without cause and force him to submit to a DUI test. Officers need to have probable cause. If not, a case may from the outset be doomed, which would be good news for you if you have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence. Your Redwood City DUI lawyer will assess the nature of the traffic stop in building your defense.

The Supreme Court and Reasonable Suspicion

The year 1979 was a landmark for the rights of those accused of driving under the influence. Prior to that time officers often pulled over individuals simply for a registration and license check. The Supreme Court heard a case that year, however, which changed the way courts handled DUI cases thenceforth [Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 663 (1979)]. The Court found that it was not reasonable for officers to pull over drivers unless a reasonable suspicion of unlawful activity exists. Such activity can consist of violations of state rules of the road.

Problems With the Notion of Reasonable Suspicion

Your Redwood City DUI attorney will tell you, however, that the Court decision did not provide for a definitive understanding of “articulable and reasonable suspicion.” Thus, the standard is applied based to some extent upon individual perception. In other words, there is no clear cut rule for how to apply the law, and so often the issue of reasonable suspicion finds its way into courts during trial. In some cases, indeed, a DUI attorney may base a client’s defense almost solely upon the belief that the facts of the traffic stop did not meet the standard.

One element that is weighed when judging reasonable suspicion is the fact that officers must make quick decisions and therefore do not have the time to consider fully whether a stop meets the standard deemed by the Supreme Court. That said, the fact remains that a misapplying of the law based on a snap judgment does not render the stop lawful.

You Need Help If You Have Been Arrested

If you were arrested and charged with DUI, it is very important that you hire a Redwood City DUI lawyer who will fight for you. Call Silveira Law today at (415) 795-3890.