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Understanding the concept of probable cause for a DWI stop

On Behalf of | Aug 19, 2022 | DUI Defense

Operating a motor vehicle while drunk is an offense punishable by fines, suspension of your driver’s license and jail time among other penalties. However, law enforcement cannot just stop and charged you for drunk driving without cause. 

Law enforcement must have probable cause for your stop and subsequent arrest. Without probable cause, you may be able to challenge the entire traffic stop and the basis for your arrest.

Signs that may give the police probable cause

Law enforcement officers are trained to look for signs of drunk driving. Here are some of the signs that might lead the police to stop you for a drunk driving investigation:

  • Swerving – Alcohol impairs the driver’s ability to concentrate and drive in a straight line. If the police spot you swerving in and out of your lane, they will certainly pull you over for investigation.
  • Erratic accelerating and decelerating – Intoxicated drivers will often make reckless acceleration and deceleration.
  • Traffic violations – Drunk drivers tend to have a hard time observing basic traffic rules like stopping at the crosswalk, signaling a turn or observing the speed limits. 

So what should you do if you are stopped for DWI?

Once the police have established probable cause, they will stop you for a DWI investigation. When the police signal you to stop, be sure to slow down and pull over at a safe spot. Do not get out of the car unless the police ask you to. Also, be sure to place your hands where the police can see them. 

Do not try to talk yourself out of trouble or answer questions that might get you in trouble. Keep in mind that even without reminding you about your Miranda Rights, the police can use anything you say against you in court. The best response to incriminating questions would be, “I’d rather have my lawyer speak for me.” 

Drunk driving is a serious offense with far-reaching legal and collateral implications. Understanding your legal options can help you safeguard your rights while defending yourself.