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What are probable cause and reasonable suspicion?

On Behalf of The Foley Law Firm | October 4, 2018

Most Coloradans do not understand their rights and how they pertain to the criminal justice system, especially when it applies to traffic/vehicle stops and DUI sobriety checkpoints. The Fourth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution provides protections against unlawful searches and seizures. Law enforcement uses a variety of methods, including the use of probable cause and reasonable suspicion, to identify and apprehend intoxicated motorists and charge them with DUIs.

Most motorists already know how dangerous and unlawful it is for them to drink and drive. Still, some drivers ignore the risks or are unaware they are driving while under the influence of prescription medications, alcohol or both. It is essential to understand the differences between probable cause and reasonable suspicion. They each play a role in establishing DUI charges.

What is reasonable suspicion?

Police officers do not need evidence to validate their reasons for pulling someone over. All that is necessary is suspicion. Their suspicions do not always have to align with what an average person would think. As long as an officer believes there is criminal activity in progress, he or she can approach the person under warrant of suspicion.

What is probable cause?

In order for a motorist to receive a DUI charge, probable cause must exist. It falls to law enforcement to prove there is evidence to substantiate a DUI arrest and indictment. Police officers are trained to use their senses to identify evidence and information that can help them perform their jobs. They assess the appearance, smell and behaviors of motorists and visual observation of their vehicles for signs and evidence of possible impairment. Slurred speech, drowsiness, disheveled appearance, alcohol odor and erratic driving behavior are all signs of probable cause that officers use to charge motorists with DUIs.

It is possible for defendants to pursue a lack of probable cause defense. The defendant must challenge the information from law enforcement to prove there was not enough evidence to warrant the DUI arrest. A successful defense could result in a reduced charge or a dismissal of the charge.

If you are arrested for DUI, speak with an experienced DUI defense attorney as soon as possible.

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