As a driver, it’s essential to understand the difference between reasonable suspicion and probable cause when it comes to drunk driving. Knowing the distinction can help protect your rights and ensure you handle encounters with law enforcement appropriately.
Reasonable suspicion is a lower standard than probable cause. When a police officer has reasonable suspicion, they believe that a driver may be under the influence based on specific, observable facts. This suspicion alone doesn’t grant them the authority to arrest a driver but does allow them to initiate a traffic stop and conduct further investigation.
Signs of drunk driving provide reasonable suspicion
There are common signs of drunk driving that can lead to reasonable suspicion. These may include erratic driving behaviors such as swerving, weaving in and out of lanes, making wide turns, driving too slowly or too fast or failing to use turn signals. Additionally, if an officer notices the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, or bloodshot eyes during a traffic stop, these factors can contribute to reasonable suspicion.
Arrests can’t be based on reasonable suspicion
In order to make an arrest for drunk driving, an officer must have probable cause. Probable cause is a higher standard of evidence, and it means that the officer has enough facts or evidence to reasonably believe a driver is under the influence. To establish probable cause, an officer may ask you to perform field sobriety tests or submit to a breathalyzer test.
If your performance on these tests indicates impairment, the officer may have probable cause for arrest. At this point, you need to determine what type of defense you’re going to use. Considering all the facts of the case can help you make this decision.