Reasonable Suspicion vs. Probable Cause in a DUI Arrest

When you’ve been arrested for any crime, there are certain burdens the State must meet to show the arrest was lawful. This is true for a DUI arrest as well. First, the State must demonstrate that the police who pulled you over had reasonable suspicion to make the traffic stop. Second, they need to show that the officers also had sufficient evidence to prove probable cause to make the DUI arrest.

If you aren’t an Orangeburg DUI attorney, you probably don’t know the difference between these two things. Why would you? However, when it comes to your DUI arrest, your Orangeburg DUI attorney will need all the ammunition possible to get the charges against you dropped or at least reduced.

One way your attorney can do this is by showing that the State did not have the right to pull you over in the first place. They can also argue that the police didn’t have cause to believe you were in fact driving while under the influence. To do this, your Orangeburg DUI attorney will have to demonstrate that the police lacked the requisite basis to pursue a DUI arrest.

This is no easy feat. However, if the evidence is there, your attorney will certainly do what they can. Their goal is to get the charges against you either reduced or dismissed. They will have to find sufficient evidence to do this.

Here, we will discuss the difference between reasonable suspicion to pull someone over and probable cause to arrest them. If you still have questions or need help with your own DUI arrest, contact our office. We can arrange to have a seasoned Orangeburg DUI attorney come directly to the jail if need be.

There is a Big Difference Between Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause

One of the first thing lawyers learn in their criminal law courses is the difference between reasonable suspicion and probable cause. Reasonable suspicion is a much easier standard to reach than probable cause. All an officer needs to establish in order to pull you over is a mere suspicion that a crime has been committed and that you may be the one to have committed that crime.

As far as probable cause is concerned, the police must show that they had a strong and honest opinion that you have committed a crime. They must support this by articulating specific facts justifying their belief that you have done something wrong.

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The Cops Only Need Reasonable Suspicion to Pull You Over

In order to justify pulling you over, the police need to demonstrate that they had a reasonable belief that a crime was underfoot. This could be anything from burglary to drunk driving. If the cops can show that there were signs that made them believe you were committing that crime, they will support their decision to pull you over.

Some of the things the police can point to in support of this decision include the following:

  • You were weaving in and out of your lane.
  • You failed to stop at a red light or stop sign.
  • You are driving extraordinarily slowly.
  • You have all the windows down in freezing, cold weather.
  • You have your stereo all the way up in the middle of the night.
  • The officers see you pull out of a bar or nightclub at closing time.

It is what the police see before they pull you over that matters for reasonable suspicion. The things they notice after they pull you over are what will go to support their decision to make a DUI arrest.

The Police Need Probable Cause to Make a DUI Arrest

To substantiate their decision to make a DUI arrest, the State must meet a much stricter burden. For probable cause, the officers must be able to point to specific things that made them believe you had committed a crime. Even though drunk driving may not seem like a crime to some people, it is a crime just like any other.

To justify their DUI arrest, the officers must be able to show some or all of the following:

  • You were slurring your words when answering the officer’s questions.
  • Your eyes are bloodshot.
  • The officer can smell the odor of alcohol or marijuana coming from your car or person.
  • There is an open container of alcohol in plain view.
  • The officers can see drug paraphernalia in the vehicle.
  • You fail your field sobriety test.
  • You blow higher than .08 on the breathalyzer test.

When viewed together, these observations would certainly substantiate a DUI arrest. Your Orangeburg DUI attorney will have to undermine these findings if they want to get your case thrown out. The same is true if they want to get the charges against you reduced to reckless driving.

Your Orangeburg DUI Attorney Can Challenge the Arrest

The reason you hire a DUI attorney is so that they can fight your DUI arrest. The good news is that our Orangeburg DUI attorneys have plenty of experience handling these types of cases. We know how to poke holes in the prosecutor’s case. We are also skilled at negotiating a favorable plea deal with the State prosecutor.

We recommend that you contact our office immediately after your DUI arrest. This way, they have plenty of time to review your case before your first appearance in court. If your lawyer can prove that either the traffic stop or arrest was illegal, they will be able to get the charges dropped. Even if the evidence supports the DUI arrest, they may still be able to negotiate a plea deal in your favor.

Knowing the penalties associated with a DUI conviction, it’s in your best interest to call our office within minutes of being arrested and booked into the county jail.