People who are facing drunk driving charges often want to explore their options for developing a defense strategy. While some might have to focus on things like proving a blood alcohol concentration level wasn’t valid, others may be able to focus more on procedural defects that apply to their case.
One point that may come up is the validity of the traffic stop that led to the drunk driving charge at issue. It may also be possible to question whether the arrest is valid or not.
Reasonable suspicion is a lower standard
The standard of reasonable suspicion, which must be met for a stop to be lawful, is very low. In short, it means that an officer only has to see something that would suggest that a crime is being committed, is going to be committed or has already been committed before they are lawfully permitted to act. What the officer sees would have to lead to any reasonable person to draw the same conclusion.
In the case of a drunk driving traffic stop, an officer would need to observe a traffic violation that indicates the driver may be impaired in order to pull them over. Some of the more common signs include:
- Swerving between lanes
- Failing to stop at stop signs or red lights
- Hitting or almost hitting parked cars or other objects on the side of the road
- Braking unnecessarily
- Driving without lights when they should be on
It’s also possible that other events may lead to an officer choosing to interact with a driver. For example, having a burned-out brake light or some other violation of the law could lead to an interaction. Additionally, traffic crashes generally lead to contact with a police officer.
Probable cause is necessary for arrest
Law enforcement can’t arrest someone based on reasonable suspicion. There must be probable cause. This is a higher standard that means that evidence indicates that a crime has been committed or is being committed. In the case of drunk driving, police officers may use factors such as blood alcohol concentration or standardized field sobriety tests to obtain probable cause.
If you have recently been arrested and charged with criminal wrongdoing, know that every aspect of the interaction with officers may play a role in your defense strategy. Seeking legal guidance can help you to determine how to proceed.