Did the police have reasonable suspicion to stop your car?

If you have recently been arrested on DWI charges and allegations of driving under the influence, it’s important to consider exactly how the process played out. For example, prior to making any traffic stop, a police officer needs to have reasonable suspicion. There must be a valid reason to make a traffic stop. Without it, the officer may have violated your rights and certain evidence collected during the stop – or as a result of it – may not be permitted in court.

What is reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop? There are numerous reasons why an officer can lawfully pull a vehicle over. This is different than probable cause, but it starts the process of investigating suspected wrongdoing, and an officer may then escalate things to field sobriety tests or a breath test, provided that they have pulled a motorist over for a valid reason in the first place.

Potential reasons for traffic stops

The list below is not a fully exhaustive list of all of the reasons that the police can lawfully pull someone over, but these are some common things that they look for when seeking impaired drivers and making traffic stops:

  1. Speeding: Observing a vehicle exceeding the posted speed limit on radar or when pacing the vehicle.
  2. Erratic Driving: Witnessing a vehicle swerving, weaving or abruptly changing lanes without signaling, indicating possible impaired driving.
  3. Equipment Violations: Noticing a vehicle with a broken taillight, headlight or license plate light, as this could indicate equipment violations.
  4. Expired Registration: Identifying a vehicle with an expired registration sticker or license plate, suggesting a potential violation.
  5. Running Red Lights or Stop Signs: Observing a vehicle disregarding traffic signals or stop signs could mean the driver is impaired.
  6. Reckless Driving: Seeing a vehicle engaging in reckless behavior, such as excessive speeding, aggressive driving or dangerous maneuvers.
  7. Vehicle Defects: Noticing a vehicle with noticeable defects, such as a cracked windshield, missing mirrors or worn-out tires, which could be a safety concern.
  8. Following Too Closely: Observing a vehicle tailgating closely behind another, creating an unsafe driving condition.
  9. Signs of Impairment: Noticing potential signs of impairment like wide turns, driving without headlights or straddling the centerline.

If a traffic stop yields further evidence of criminal activity, then probable cause may be established, allowing for a more extensive investigation or search. If you suspect that your rights have been violated or you’re unsure of the strength of the state’s case, don’t make assumptions. Seek legal guidance so that you can make informed decisions about your options moving forward.