When a police officer’s DUI traffic stop is legal — and when it isn’t

On Behalf of | Mar 1, 2021 | Drunk Driving |

Police departments and sheriff’s offices in South Central Pennsylvania do not pull over drivers for no reason — at least, they are not supposed to. Instead, the law requires an officer to have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that a driver has committed a crime or is committing one before that officer can pull over the vehicle.

Examples of ‘reasonable suspicion’

At times, it can seem like almost anything is an excuse for a police officer to pull you over on suspicion of drinking and driving. But there are limits. The officer must be able to reasonably say they observed a sign of impaired driving. Examples include a vehicle that is:

  • Failing to maintain its lane
  • Drifting over the median
  • Changing lanes without signaling
  • Speeding or driving too slow
  • Making illegal turns
  • Acting erratically, such as by stopping and starting suddenly

Keep in mind that this gives the officer the right to pull you over, not arrest you for DUI or any other crime. Police must have probable cause before they can legally arrest somebody. They must have enough evidence to reasonably believe the person most likely committed a crime. This is a higher standard than reasonable suspicion.

Of course, the whole point of the traffic stop is to give the police the opportunity to gather evidence against you, such as a breath test, field sobriety tests, and observations of your demeanor. If the officer decides there is enough evidence to arrest you for DUI, they will.

Don’t give up after a DUI arrest

An arrest does not automatically translate into a conviction. Every case is different, and there may be things a defense attorney can do to help you. For example, if the police violated your rights at any point during the traffic stop, or if the stop itself was illegal, your lawyer can fight to get evidence thrown out or get the DUI charge reduced or dropped entirely.