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Reasonable suspicion and DUI: how do police determine who to stop?

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2022 | DUI/DWI

You are driving home after an evening out with friends. Then you notice those dreaded blue and red lights flashing through your rearview mirror. It’s the police, and they are coming after you. You remember taking a bottle of beer. But how did the police know about this?

Drunk driving is a serious offense with severe legal and personal repercussions. However, for the police to stop you for a DUI investigation, they must have reason to believe that you are actually driving under influence. They cannot just stop you on a whim. 

So, what is reasonable suspicion and how does law enforcement establish it?

Understanding reasonable suspicion

In the context of drunk driving, reasonable suspicion is the standard by which law enforcement must have grounds to pull a motorist over for a DUI investigation. Reasonable suspicion must be based on facts that your driving patterns are consistent with those of a drunk driver. 

Here are three driving patterns that can lead to a DUI stop:

Serious traffic violations – if you are intoxicated, you will have difficulty obeying basic traffic rules. These include basic things like turning your headlights on when driving at night or stopping at the red light. A violation of these basic traffic rules can lead to a stop for further investigation. 

Hugging the center line – Most drunk motorists tend to “play it safe” by hugging the center line. However, while this might seem safe, it is important to understand that alcohol is still likely to impair your judgment and slow down your reflex and reaction time. 

Swerving – this is probably the clearest sign of impaired driving. It’s also the first sign police look for when they are on patrol. Alcohol makes it hard to focus and maintain your lane. If the police notice that you’re having difficulty keeping your lane, they will certainly stop you for investigation.

If you are pulled over for a drunk drinking investigation, you need to figure out how you can safeguard your rights, defend yourself and get out of trouble.

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