Depending on the facts of the circumstances surrounding a DUI arrest, the “probable cause” defense could be the most powerful tool in an accused person’s arsenal. The basic premise of this defense involves the accused person’s claim that the arresting officer did not have a valid reason to pull him or her over.
A police officer cannot simply pull a citizen over randomly and conduct a traffic stop just because the officer doesn’t like the color of the driver’s car. Police must observe a crime or behavior that is sufficiently suspicious to warrant a traffic stop.
The circumstances that must be present for a DUI stop to occur
A DUI stop does not have to start as a DUI stop in order to be valid. All that is required is for the officer to observe a crime — or to observe evidence to suspect that a crime is being committed. That crime or suspicious behavior could be failure to maintain the lane of traffic, speeding, running a red light, failing to use a blinker when changing lanes or erratic driving. When an officer observes something like this, then he or she will have probable cause to make a traffic stop, and the traffic stop will be valid.
Next, the officer must have probable cause in order to conduct a DUI field sobriety test and breathalyzer test. This probable cause might be slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, drunken behavior and other indicators. It could also relate to the erratic manner by which the accused person had been driving his or her vehicle. When this kind of probable cause exists, then the officer may conduct his or her DUI investigation.
The lawfulness of the traffic stop is vital to any DUI arrest
Police know that — in order for their traffic stops to be lawful — they must have observed suspicious behavior or some kind of violation of the law. Failure to make a lawful traffic stop could end in any resulting charges relating to DUI, drug possession, and other crimes being dismissed.
If you suspect that the traffic stop before your DUI arrest was conducted without a valid reason, or without probable cause, it could be one of the many criminal defense strategies you could employ in your legal proceedings.