Reasonable suspicion, probable cause and DWI arrests

Sometimes, it can feel like the police have unlimited power. However, there are limits on what the police can and can’t do. For example, police must have a reasonable suspicion that you have violated the law before making a traffic stop.

Situations where the police may pull a driver over

In general, police will pull a driver over when it appears that a traffic violation has occurred. For example, if you are driving over the speed limit, an officer may stop your vehicle. However, police may also pull you over even if no violation has occurred. They can do so if they have a reasonable suspicion that you are driving while intoxicated. Typical situations where police may suspect a driver has been drinking include:

  • Weaving in and out of traffic lanes
  • Crossing the center line
  • Random braking
  • Speeding up and slowing down
  • Driving too slowly

Any of the above or similar situations may provide an officer with enough reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop.

What about probable cause?

Reasonable suspicion provides an officer with enough evidence to begin an investigation into whether you may be driving while intoxicated. However, reasonable suspicion on its own is not enough to justify placing you under arrest.

Police must establish probable cause that you have violated the law before they can place you under arrest. If, after pulling you over, the police detect a strong odor of alcohol, or ask you to submit to a preliminary breath test (PBT) and field sobriety tests, this may provide them with enough probable cause to make an arrest.

You have rights

It might seem like the police can twist the facts to always support reasonable suspicion and probable cause. However, you have rights. A skilled legal professional can help you assert those rights. Even if the actions of the police were ultimately justified, it’s still possible to build a strong defense against DWI charges. You should always take the time to explore your defense options.