Police officers are charged with keeping the cities and roads safe. One of their duties is to do their best to keep drunk drivers off the streets. In an effort to do this, cops look for certain behaviors when they are watching how people drive.
When a police officer sees something that indicates drunk driving, he or she will make contact with the driver. The basis for this is known as reasonable suspicion. This is a much different concept than probable cause. Here’s what you need to know about drunk driving stops and reasonable suspicion:
How do reasonable suspicion and probable cause differ?
Reasonable suspicion means that the officer doesn’t have proof that you did anything wrong but has a reason to think that something might be going on. Probable cause means that there is evidence that an illegal action occurred. When conducting a traffic stop, the officer only needs to have reasonable suspicion. The officer needs to have probable cause to initiate an arrest for a crime. This is an important distinction that can come into the picture when you are facing a criminal charge because the cop can’t arrest you because he or she simply suspects you are drunk.
What are some signs that a driver is drunk?
There are many signs of drunk driving that officers look for. These include behaviors like weaving in and out of lanes or failing to obey traffic laws. Stopping suddenly or failing to stop at traffic lights can also signal that a driver is impaired. Some intoxicated drivers will drive much faster than the speed limit, but they might also do the exact opposite and drive much slower than what is prudent. Hitting objects on the side of the road and straddling the center line also gives officers reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle.
What happens when the drunk driving stop occurs?
When a drunk driving stop occurs, the officer will try to determine whether the person is intoxicated. A determination has to be made about the level of intoxication to find out if the person is above the legal limit. This is usually done by taking a test for blood-alcohol concentration. It is also possible that the officer will do a standardized field sobriety test prior to the BAC test.
Paying attention when you are going through this process might clue you into points that you can use for your defense. Even if you can’t make actual notes, try to remember all you can about what happened.