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Did the Police Have Reasonable Suspicion for My DUI Stop?

I received a phone call yesterday from a young man who believed the Peoria, Arizona police department did not have reasonable suspicion to pull him over for his DUI.  People call my office all the time thinking that that they have a glaring issue because their Miranda rights weren’t read at a certain time or that there wasn’t reasonable suspicion to pull them over.  The truth is, lawyering is much more complicated than going into court and making a blanket argument.  Miranda Right violations are more involved than what you see on TV; in fact, it took nearly one full semester of law school to completely review Miranda and how it is applied to criminal cases.

Getting back to the point of this article.  What is reasonable suspicion?  An officer has reasonable suspicion to pull someone over or stop a person if they reasonably suspect a crime has been committed or the person has some involvement with a crime.  Reasonable suspicion as it relates to a DUI stop means that an officer reasonably suspects a person is violating a traffic law or the officer reasonably suspects the person is driving under the influence of alcohol.

The person that called for the consultation did not believe the officer had reasonable suspicion for the stop because he was not issued a citation for a traffic infraction.  In their case, the officer noted that he was swerving within his lane.  Based on an officers training, if he reasonably suspects that given the totality of the circumstances, i.e. time of day, location, driving behavior even if it’s not a moving violation, the person may be DUI, he can initiate the stop.

Reasonable suspicion is an incredibly low standard for the police or prosecutor to prove.  If you are framing a DUI defense around reasonable suspicion, you will lose.  DUI cases are complicated.  An effective defense requires a lawyer well trained in DUI investigation and forensics to look for technical holes in a client’s case.  I can almost guarantee that a layperson or a lawyer who has never received DUI training will not be able to discover weakness in the State’s case.

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