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What is reasonable suspicion for a drunk driving stop?

On Behalf of | May 3, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Being the subject of a suspected drunk driving stop is a stressful event. While some people may assume that police officers can stop a vehicle for no reason, the fact is that they need reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop. 

In order to meet the reasonable suspicion standard, the police officer must see something that would make a reasonable person believe the driver was impaired. This isn’t as high of a standard as probable cause, which is required for an arrest. 

What are the signs the police officer may look for?

There are many signs that can point to someone being too impaired to drive. These can vary greatly depending on the circumstances. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Swerving in and out of lanes
  • Stopping without any reason
  • Failing to put headlights on when they’re required
  • Driving at speeds that are too slow or too fast for conditions
  • Going through stop signs or red lights

Once a police officer stops a vehicle, they have to determine what’s going on with the driver. This typically starts with an interview with the driver. If the officer believes impairment is a factor, they might ask the driver to conduct a field sobriety test to check for signs of impairment or a chemical test to determine blood alcohol concentration. 

If the officer finds probable cause that the driver is impaired, they may conduct an arrest for drunk driving. At that point, the person should determine how to handle their defense strategy. Working with someone who understands the case and the laws that apply to it may be beneficial.