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What is probable cause for a DUI stop?

You're heading home for the night, after having dinner and drinks with your friends, when the flashing lights come on in the mirror. You flip on your blinker and pull to the side. The first thing you might think about is whether or not you'll pass a blood test, but it's also wise to think about what happened right before those lights came on. Did the officer actually have a reason to pull you over?

Whether a driver is intoxicated or not, officers still need probable cause to pull someone over. They can't pull over random cars in hopes that they will find a drunk driver. They need to have a reason to pull someone over.

Some examples of probable cause

  • Drifting into the wrong lane or straddling the center line. Even on roads with multiple lanes going the same direction, driving partially in both lanes could give officers probable cause to pull a driver over.
  • Making an illegal turn such as a U-turn.
  • Almost running into something, such as a parked car, curb or road sign.
  • Drifting all over the road.
  • Driving extremely quickly or extremely slowly.
  • Driving erratically.
  • Hitting the brakes frequently or coming to a stop when there is no reason to, such as stopping 400 yards before a stoplight.

Simple traffic violations may provide probable cause

Officers can look for even simple traffic violations to pull someone over, like not stopping completely at a stop sign or failing to use your blinker to change lanes. Even on an empty highway, these behaviors can warrant a stop. Additionally, a concerned citizen may have called the police because the person observed the erratic driving behavior and wanted the police to investigate. These types of calls may give officers reasonable suspicion to investigate. These are just a few reasons the police may pull someone over.

After talking with you, the officer may see other signs that indicate you're intoxicated and ask you to take a blood test, but they can't just pull you over and give you the test without reason. If they do, the results of the test may not hold up in court.

To learn more about probable cause or to obtain guidance for your legal questions about DUI and other traffic violations, contact an experienced attorney.

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