The police need reasonable suspicion to stop you for operating under the influence (OUI) of alcohol or other drugs. Absent this, a stop may be unlawful. Accordingly, you can use it as a defense strategy when facing an OUI charge.
Here is what you should know about reasonable suspicion:
Reasonable suspicion is an objectively justifiable suspicion based on the specific facts or circumstances. The suspicion should be unbiased, clear and fair.
Examples of reasonable suspicion for OUI
The police can suspect a driver is drunk when they behave strangely. Examples include:
- Abrupt/frequent braking
- Sudden deceleration and acceleration
- Driving too slowly
- Illegal turns
- Stopping for no apparent reason
- Changing lanes unsafely
If a police officer observes these signs of impairment, they may have grounds to stop a driver and administer a test.
But in some instances, an officer can stop a driver and conduct a test even without noticing these signs. For example, when an accident occurs or someone is found unconscious behind the wheel of a parked vehicle.
Further, if the police have reasonable suspicion to stop a driver for another crime, such as driving with a suspended license, or any other issues, such as a cracked windshield, and later discover the driver is impaired, the stop will likely be valid.
Does reasonable suspicion warrant an arrest?
Reasonable suspicion does not warrant an arrest – it permits an officer to conduct a breathalyzer test and/or field sobriety tests. The results of the tests may give the officer probable cause, that is, if they show signs of intoxication, to arrest the driver.
If the police lacked reasonable suspicion for the initial stop, consider legal guidance to learn about your options.