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The basics of reasonable suspicion in DUI cases

On Behalf of | Aug 10, 2021 | Drunk Driving

Police officers in Mississippi may stop drivers whom they suspect of being impaired by drugs or alcohol. However, officers must follow certain laws and have a justifiable reason to stop a driver. While an officer doesn’t need evidence of a crime, they still need reasonable suspicion in order to perform a search or administer a sobriety test.

Reasonable suspicion overview

Reasonable suspicion is a legal doctrine giving officers the right to detain a suspected driver temporarily to check for impairment. Reasonable suspicion differs from probable cause, which requires proof from facts that reasonably suggest a crime has been committed.

The officer commonly observes the driver for signs of impairment, such as bloodshot eyes or aggressive behavior, giving them enough probable cause to arrest drivers. Sometimes, the initial stop occurs from a suspected traffic violation leading to an investigation. Some examples of reasonable suspicion include running red lights, speeding, almost hitting other vehicles, lane drifting, and illegal turns.

Even if the driver is visibly intoxicated, the exclusionary rule could apply, meaning the charges could get dismissed without reasonable suspicion. It’s also important to remember that most states have per se drunk driving laws, which means if a driver registers a blood alcohol content of 0.08, the officer doesn’t need other evidence.

An exception to reasonable suspicion

Many police departments set up DUI checkpoints to catch drunk drivers, especially during holidays. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens against illegal search and seizure, but the Supreme Court rules checkpoints constitutional. Some states have banned the use of DUI checkpoints because they feel it violates the state constitution.

The Supreme Court reasons that keeping roads safe comes before inconveniencing drivers, and drivers who avoid them may make the police suspicious. It gives police the right to pursue and search the driver they suspect of committing a crime.

A charge or arrest for a DUI at a checkpoint or elsewhere doesn’t guarantee a conviction. Drivers should know their rights during traffic stops to help fight or reduce charges.