Reasonable Suspicion in DUI Cases

Lawyer for Defense Against Drunk Driving Claims in Phoenix

Prosecutors often use evidence gathered by police during a DUI stop to secure a DUI conviction. The moment an officer decides to follow you and pull you over, she starts gathering information. However, in order to pull you over and detain you, the police officer must have reasonable suspicion of criminal wrongdoing. If you are concerned that there was no reasonable suspicion in your DUI case, you can consult legal counsel. James E. Novak is an experienced Phoenix DUI attorney who previously worked as a prosecutor. He strives to put forth an aggressive defense on behalf of each client using the strategies and insights he has gained throughout his legal career.

Reasonable Suspicion in DUI Cases

Under the United States Constitution, the Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. A police officer is only allowed to make an investigatory stop where she has a reasonable and articulable suspicion, based on the totality of the circumstances, that you were involved in a crime. In other words, to pull you over, the police officer needs to have a particularized and objective belief to suspect you were, are, or are going to be involved in an illegal action. The reasonable suspicion need not be a reasonable suspicion that you are driving drunk. For example, if a police officer observes you committing a traffic violation such as straddling a fog line or running a traffic signal, she can pull you over. If an officer witnesses dangerous behavior, such as almost hitting a median and other erratic behavior suggestive of drunkenness, such as swerving repeatedly within a lane, this may give rise to reasonable suspicion as well.

A reasonable suspicion can’t be a mere hunch. For example, without more, the police officer can’t stop you simply because he saw you leave a bar downtown earlier. He also can’t pull you over simply because of your race or age. Reasonable suspicion is a much lower standard than probable cause, which is the standard that must be met in order to arrest you. If an officer didn’t have a reasonable suspicion to pull you over, the evidence obtained during the stop should not be used to establish your guilt at trial.

The court will determine whether there was reasonable suspicion in your case by looking at the whole picture in terms of what happened before the stop. The court is entitled to give consideration to any specific and reasonable inferences drawn by the police officer from the facts based on her experience. When the court is reviewing the totality of the circumstances, it will give deference to the trained law enforcement officer’s capacity to discern a difference between suspicious and innocent actions.

If an officer doesn’t have reasonable suspicion to pull you over, it may be possible for you to bring a motion to suppress evidence gathered while you were detained, and a seasoned DUI attorney can help.

Motion to Suppress

Before trial in a criminal case, various motions are often brought by both sides. One such motion may be a motion to suppress, the purpose of which is to argue that there is a legal justification to exclude evidence from trial.

In the event of a violation of the Fourth Amendment, the exclusionary rule requires the evidence gathered indirectly or directly because of the violation to be suppressed at trial. In a motion to suppress related to a traffic stop, you would argue that your Fourth Amendment rights were violated, and that everything collected during the stop is fruit from the poisonous tree, or the result of the illegal stop. This can include any breath or blood tests, field sobriety tests, or officer observations of your behavior. Without any of this evidence, the prosecution may not be able to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and it may be possible to secure a dismissal of the charges.

DUI Attorney for Phoenix Area Residents

Drunk driving is a charge taken seriously by prosecutors in Arizona. If you’re concerned about reasonable suspicion in a DUI case in Phoenix, you may have a lot of questions. You can discuss the situation with a knowledgeable DUI lawyer. Mr. Novak defends clients facing drunk driving charges in the Phoenix area, including in Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, and throughout Maricopa County. Call him at (480) 413-1499 or contact him through our online form.

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