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What are probable cause and reasonable suspicion?

Being stopped by police for any reason is stressful. One of the essential things to pay attention to is why they stopped you. Police officers can’t stop a vehicle unless they have a reason.

They must meet the standard of reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop. This is a lower standard than probable cause, which is what they must meet to conduct an arrest.

What does reasonable suspicion mean?

Reasonable suspicion means that the police officer saw something that would leave the average, good person to believe that something illegal is going on. There doesn’t have to be evidence of wrongdoing, but merely a suspicion about it.

Police officers who are patrolling may see signs of drunk driving and opt to initiate a traffic stop. This includes:

  • A vehicle swerving between multiple lanes
  • A driver suddenly stopping without cause
  • The improper use or lack of turn signals
  • Someone almost hitting things on the road or side of the road

Once the officer pulls the vehicle over, they will contact the driver to determine what’s happening. At this point, the driver should take steps to protect their rights while remaining respectful to the police officers.

What is probable cause?

Probable cause is sufficient evidence to suggest that a person committed a crime. In the case of a drunk driving charge, probable cause usually comes from the results of a chemical test or a standardized field sobriety test.

If a driver’s roadside breath test produces a result higher than the applicable legal limit, the officer will take the person for a more accurate test because roadside tests aren’t admissible in court. A breath test with a non-portable device, a blood test, or a urine test are all options.

The standard of probable cause also exists for criminal charges to be levied. The court evaluates the case presented to determine whether the benchmark was met or not.

Anyone facing criminal charges should work closely with someone who can help ensure their rights are protected. If any constitutional rights aren’t respected, they may play a role in your defense strategy. Working on this as soon as possible can help you make informed decisions without rushing.