Driving home after you’ve been out with friends can be a nerve-racking experience. This intensifies if you see the flashing lights of a police cruiser behind your vehicle. If the officer sees anything amiss as you drive, they may opt to conduct a traffic stop. This must be based on reasonable suspicion, a standard that’s a bit lower than probable cause, but that plays an important role in these cases.
Reasonable suspicion is a legal standard that’s less about hard evidence and more about a hunch that’s backed by specific facts that something’s off. It’s what gives the police the green light to pull you over if they think you’re driving under the influence. But it’s not just any hunch – there has to be a reason they can point to, like if you’re hugging the centerline a little too closely or your headlights are off when they should be on.
Reasonable suspicion is only one factor
Once the officer spots you making a sloppy turn or perhaps stopping a tad too long at that stop sign, they have reasonable suspicion. From there, they’ll flip on their lights and pull you over to determine what’s going on. They’re looking for any sign that you might be impaired: slurred speech, the smell of alcohol or an open bottle in the cupholder. These clues can quickly add up to give the officer probable cause they need to conduct and arrest and press charges.
Reasonable suspicion is the thread that starts to unravel a DUI case. It’s meant to stop drunk drivers in their tracks, but it’s also there to keep the police from pulling over just anyone for no good reason. For those who end up being charged with drunk driving, reasonable suspicion may play a pivotal role in their defense.