Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion: What It Means For You

Under the U.S. Constitution, we are protected from certain police actions. For instance, before you can be legally pulled over for a DWI, law enforcement must have what is called a reasonable suspicion that you are driving while under the influence. To be arrested, there must be probable cause that you were committing the crime of driving while impaired.

Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion in New Jersey DWI Cases

If you have been stopped by a police officer who claims there was a reasonable suspicion of DUI or DWI, your case should be reviewed at once by a qualified New Jersey drunk driving defense lawyer. It is possible that your rights were violated. A full review of the facts and a discussion with you about exactly what happened will help you understand the best course of action.

The standard of reasonable suspicion is lower than what is termed probable cause. Probable cause is the phrase found in the Constitution, which reads: no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause. A warrant, including a warrant for DWI, cannot be issued without sufficient evidence or belief that a person has committed a crime.

In a watershed case, Terry v. Ohio, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1968 that the police can stop and briefly detain a person for investigative purposes if the officer has a reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that criminal activity is afoot, even if the officer lacks probable cause. The idea of reasonable suspicion then became part of our legal vocabulary.

Reasonable Suspicion for a DWI Stop

If a law enforcement officer has a reasonable suspicion of DWI, you can be pulled over. What constitutes the types of behavior that could indicate drunk driving?

Generally, the driving behaviors associated with driving under the influence include:

  • Swerving
  • Drifting out of the travel lane
  • Wrong-way driving
  • Speeding
  • Erratic driving
  • Running lights or stop signs
  • Being involved in collisions, among others

Should you be pulled over by police for any of these behaviors, you may be asked to take a breathalyzer test, asked to perform roadside sobriety tests, and questioned about alcohol consumption.

Did the Police Stop You Illegally?

There are cases in which a person is pulled over and then charged under a reasonable suspicion in a DWI arrest who was factually not in violation of any law. That person may have been subjected to an unlawful police stop. If you were driving safely, within the speed limits, and not violating any traffic law, no reasonable suspicion exists that legally justifies a police stop.

If you were pulled over for a traffic violation, the police may report that they had a reasonable suspicion of DUI or DWI because you slurred your words, had bloodshot eyes, or other similar findings. In fact, the sobriety testing used by police is for the purpose of gaining the higher level of probable cause of DWI to arrest and charge you. Many people are unaware that you are not required under New Jersey law to submit to roadside sobriety tests. You are required to submit to a breath or blood test.

Get Help with Your New Jersey DWI Charge

No matter what occurred in your case, there is little doubt that having a DWI lawyer to defend you can make all the difference in the final outcome. If you were arrested and charged with DWI or DUI in Freehold, NJ or any other location in New Jersey, I can help you. With five offices across New Jersey, I urge you to connect with me immediately for help. Your case deserves a full review. The issues surrounding probable cause and reasonable suspicion are only two of the possible legal issues that could allow you to avoid conviction. There are more and I know them all. Call me, attorney Anthony J. Vecchio, for help today.

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Anthony J. Vecchio

Anthony’s entire career has been dedicated to defending those accused of crimes, DWI, serious motor vehicle violations, and the rights of victims of crimes and accidents. He has prosecuted, defended, or appealed cases ranging from municipal court matters to more serious crimes including drug offenses and murder. Anthony is passionate about providing personalized, thorough, and effective representation to individuals in crisis.

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