Under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, you cannot be lawfully arrested without sufficient reason. This means that law enforcement officers must satisfy the legal standard of probable cause before initiating an arrest. This standard applies in DUI cases as well.
Reasonable Suspicion Precedes Probable Cause
In a DUI case, officers must first satisfy the requirement of reasonable suspicion before beginning a DUI investigation. Reasonable suspicion is a lower standard of evidence than probable cause, but it must precede it in order for the arrest to be lawful.
What Constitutes Probable Cause?
Probable cause must be established on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the specific facts and details of each individual case. When it comes to DUI cases, officers typically point to a common set of factors when establishing probable cause.
Typical DUI Case Scenario
Most DUI cases unfold in a very similar manner:
- A police officer initiates a traffic stop and pulls your vehicle over.
- The officer approaches your vehicle and asks a few questions including, “How much have you had to drink tonight?”
- The officer asks you to step out of the vehicle to perform the field sobriety tests. He or she may also ask you to submit to a preliminary breath test.
- You are placed under arrest for suspicion of DUI, taken to the police station, and told to submit to a chemical BAC test.
In this scenario, the officer will typically cite your responses to the questions or other factors such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes or an “odor of alcohol” as the reasonable suspicion to initiate the DUI investigation.
He or she will then typically use your performance on the field sobriety tests and/or the preliminary breath test result as probable cause to justify your arrest.
If you refuse the field sobriety tests, the officer may use a totality of the circumstances, meaning he has established probable cause by the combination of the indicia of intoxication he allegedly saw—i.e., bad driving pattern, slurred speech, odor of alcoholic beverage, etc.
Challenging Probable Cause
When it comes to defending a DUI charge, we will attack the prosecution’s case systematically, beginning with the initial traffic stop. If the police officer did not have a legitimate reason to pull your vehicle over in the first place, then the entire case should be dismissed.
Likewise, if the officer did not have sufficient reasonable suspicion to initiate a DUI investigation, then the prosecution’s case is compromised.
Our attorneys have many avenues of attack when challenging probable cause, depending on the particular details of your case. For instance, we can question:
- The results of the field sobriety tests, which are extremely subjective in nature and designed to give police a reason to arrest you
- The results of the preliminary breath test, which is unreliable at best
- The officer’s testimony of alleged indicia of intoxication (bad driving, unsteadiness on your feet, odor of alcohol, etc.) by reviewing video tapes from the patrol car or officer’s body cam
If we are able to review your case in sufficient time and see that the probable cause cited is insufficient, we can potentially file a motion to dismiss the case before it ever goes to trial. This will save you even more money, time, and headache in dealing with the judicial system.
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