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    Understanding Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause in a DUI Stop

    Posted on: March 17th, 2020 by Dod Law

    Understanding DUI stops

    San Diego traffic police are everywhere. From distracted driving to responding to life-threatening car crashes, they put their lives on the line to keep our roads safe. Sometimes, part of the job involves getting drunk drivers off the road. Yet, an officer must have reasonable suspicion that a driver has committed a violation before he can pull him over and issue a citation. Sometimes, a regular traffic stop can lead to a DUI investigation. 

    After confirming his suspicions of DUI, an officer may place the driver under arrest. They can only do so upon establishing probable cause for arrest, which they do when they verify their previous suspicion of the driver violating the law. 

    If you’ve recently been stopped for DUI in San Diego, you should know that officers must follow certain rules before they can request that you submit to testing and before placing you under arrest. If you’ve been arrested, contact a knowledgeable San Diego DUI Attorney near you.

    What is Reasonable Suspicion?

    Police officers on traffic duty can’t stop any driver on a hunch that they’re breaking the law; rather, they must have reasonable suspicion that this is the case. Reasonable suspicion is a legal standard of proof that’s less than probable cause. It requires police officers to have an objectively reasonable basis for suspecting that someone has committed a crime before detaining him. 

    An officer investigating DUI may establish reasonable cause when he witnesses a driving pattern that is typical of driving under the influence, such as swerving in and out of a lane, excessive braking, and persistent tailgating. Once the officer witnesses driving violations, he establishes reasonable suspicion that the driver is impaired and may pull the driver over to identify him and request field sobriety tests.

    What is Probable Cause in a DUI Stop?

    An officer needs probable cause before he may arrest a driver for driving under the influence. This means that the officer must be able to establish certain facts that indicate the driver was impaired. These facts may include their observations, such as the driver’s performance in a field sobriety test. Other indicators may include slurred speech or the smell of alcohol coming from the driver’s breath. 

    After conducting field sobriety tests, the police officer may decide to request a breath sample from the driver to have additional evidence. A driver who takes a portable breath test and blows a 0.08 BAC or higher gives the officer probable cause to arrest him. Probable cause requires more than a mere suspicion that the driver committed a crime but does not require as much information as would be needed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. 

    What Should I Do if I’m Pulled Over in San Diego?

    When a police officer pulls you over in San Diego, you should provide only the bare minimum information he requests of you. Any actions you take could be interpreted as proof of impairment, so try to stay calm and focused. Once you’re stopped, the officer will request your driver’s license, proof of car insurance, and vehicle registration. Legally, you’re not required to answer any further questions. You can politely decline to answer the officer’s questions or to engage in conversation by exercising your right to remain silent.

    You may also politely refuse to take a roadside breath test, the results of which may only serve to strengthen the officer’s probable cause to arrest you. An officer will usually take a BAC reading on a portable breathalyzer before placing you under arrest and taking you to the nearest police station to take a more accurate test on a stationary breathalyzer. The officer may also request and obtain a warrant to have you take a blood test. Refusing these chemical tests could make it more challenging to defend your DUI in court, so it’s best to comply with these requests.

    Call Attorney Dod for Quality DUI Representation in San Diego

    One of the most crucial steps you should take after you’re arrested is to contact an attorney who understands what’s at stake when you’re accused of DUI in San Diego. Although some DUI charges are misdemeanor offenses, they’re no less serious than some felony offenses, and the penalty for your first DUI could result in your license being suspended for a year. A DUI can clearly have long-lasting effects and could make it much more difficult to accomplish your goals and carry on with your life. 

    Attorney Dod of Dod Law has helped people face accusations of DUI and related crimes for more than 17 years in and around San Diego. He has handled more than 6,500 cases, including 75 jury trials. His dedication to protecting the rights of his clients has no bounds. Call 619-814-5110 for a free consultation with a San Diego DUI lawyer or complete our contact form.


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