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What constitutes probable cause in a DUI case?

On Behalf of | Feb 13, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Due to the high number of alcohol-related driving fatalities in Oklahoma, tackling impaired driving is a top priority for law enforcement. If a police officer suspects an individual of drunk driving, they may pull the vehicle over and conduct further checks.

However, a mere suspicion that a driver may be drunk is not enough to warrant an arrest or DUI charges. Officers must have probable cause. What constitutes probable cause in DUI cases?

Admissions of drinking

One of the most common forms of probable cause is when a driver admits to drinking alcohol. If an officer asks whether or not the driver has been drinking, and the response is “yes,” then a DUI arrest is likely – particularly if a breathalyzer test or other evidence indicates that they’re over the legal limit.

The driver may not even have to admit directly to drinking for there to be probable cause. For instance, if the driver admits that they have just come from a bar, this can be used toward having probable cause. This is why it’s so important for drivers to assert their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

Failed breathalyzer tests

When stopping a driver on suspicion of DUI, it’s likely that officers will ask that driver to take a breathalyzer test. This test measures the blood alcohol content (BAC) of that individual. While drivers can refuse to take roadside tests, doing so usually results in further penalties such as license suspension.

A failed breathalyzer test alone typically amounts to probable cause. Drivers who fail these tests are generally arrested and charged with DUI.

Charges don’t mean guilt or have to result in conviction. The validity of probable cause and the evidence against you can be challenged in court if necessary. Having legal guidance behind you is the best place to start when facing a DUI charge.