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Do the Police Need Probable Cause for a San Diego Driving Under the Influence Case?

1 September 2017

Being arrested for DUI can be an extremely stressful time in your life. You know your driver’s license is on the line, not to mention the amount of money you’ll spend in attorney’s fees. And, depending on the circumstances surrounding your arrest, you may face jail time.

Know that retaining an experienced DUI lawyer can be beneficial. Your attorney will review all aspects of your arrest, including looking into whether or not the police had probable cause to arrest you. We’ll explain.

DUI and Probable Cause

Probable cause is the reasonable belief by law enforcement that you have committed a crime. When it comes to probable cause in the case of a DUI charge, there are three scenarios law enforcement must establish.

The first is reasonable suspicion. Law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion that you’re operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. It cannot be based on a hunch, the officer must have proof to back up his claim. For example, if you’re driving down the road and a police officer is pulled off to the side and he sees you drive by, he cannot just chase you down because he suspects you are drunk. He must see you commit another infraction. Some of those infractions including speeding, swerving in and out of the lanes, running a red light or even having a taillight out. initially, the police officer may not even suspect you are drunk, he may not make that determination until he pulls you over.

From there, the police officer must have cause to even question you in regards to drinking. If the police officer pulled you over because you were speeding, he will walk up to your car and most likely ask for your driver’s license and vehicle registration. But, as he talks with you, he may see that you have slurred speech, red eyes or even the smell of alcohol on your breath. From there, he has cause to question you further to determine if you are, in fact, intoxicated.

Probable Cause to Arrest

If a police officer is suspicious that you’ve been driving under the influence of alcohol and he’s actually seen you operate a motor vehicle and since determine you are drunk, he still must have probable cause to arrest you. This is where field sobriety and breathalyzer tests come into play.

Once the officer has reason to believe you are intoxicated, he’ll ask you to step out of your car and perform a series of tests to determine your sobriety or lack thereof. You may be asked to recite the alphabet, walk a straight line or touch your fingers to your nose. If you fail one or more of these tests, you could be arrested.

The police officer may also ask you to submit to a breathalyzer test. This is a test where you will blow into a machine and the amount of alcohol will be recorded on this device. If it’s determined that the alcohol is at or above the legal limit, you would be arrested for DUI.

Keep in mind that these tests are not always accurate and may not really reflect the amount of alcohol in your blood. But, the results of the testing may be enough evidence to at least arrest you for DUI.

If you’ve been arrested for DUI, please reach out to an experienced DUI attorney, who can determine if the officer did have probable cause for not only pulling you over but for arresting you as well. Your attorney can establish a defense based on the probable cause and evidence used to arrest you.

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