Learn the importance of reasonable suspicion in drunk driving cases and how it can affect the outcome of a DUI charge from Ashwell & Ashwell, PLLC.
What Is Reasonable Suspicion for a Virginia DUI Stop?
Police officers have a lot of duties to do while they’re out on patrol. One of these is to stop drunk drivers before they can cause a crash that leads to injuries or death. In order to do this, they must initiate a traffic stop if a driver is showing signs of impairment.
The standard that they have to meet to conduct a traffic stop for impaired driving is reasonable suspicion. This means the driver is doing something that a reasonable person would believe points to them being impaired.
Reasonable suspicion is an essential legal concept that pertains to the circumstances in which a police officer can conduct a DUI stop. In Virginia, an officer needs reasonable suspicion to believe that a driver is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The following are some examples of reasonable suspicion:
- Weaving or swerving
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Driving too slowly or too fast
- Driving without headlights at night
- Failing to signal a turn or lane change
- Driving in the middle of the road
This is not a complete list. In fact, anything a law enforcement officer considers a sign of impaired driving might be reasonable suspicion.
Law enforcement officers can initiate a traffic stop and conduct further investigation if they have reasonable suspicion that a driver is operating a motor vehicle under the influence.
What Are Some Signs of Impaired Driving?
There are many signs of impaired driving. These include things like driving on the wrong side of the road or swerving between lanes. Stopping suddenly or failing to obey traffic signals and signs can also lead to a traffic stop.
In some cases, the officer will come into contact with you without any of those signs. They’ll likely show up if you’re in a crash. Some will stop you if you have other things wrong with your vehicle, such as a burned-out headlight or a crack across the windshield that impairs your line of sight.
All these, combined with the reasonable suspicion that the driver may have been drinking or using drugs, might be enough to warrant a DUI stop in Virginia.
What Happens After the Officer Stops You?
Once the officer stops the vehicle, they’ll try to determine what’s going on. The officer may ask you some initial questions, such as if you have been drinking or using drugs.
Furthermore, Tthey may ask for a field sobriety test or a roadside breath test to do this. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the following are standardized field sobriety tests:
- The one-leg stand;
- The horizontal gaze nystagmus;
- The walk-and-turn tests.
These tests are designed to measure a certain response or reflex. Researchers believe specific responses and reflexes are compromised if a person has been drinking.
If you take a breathalyzer test, you should know that a driver is considered impaired if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) measures 0.08 or higher.
If they the officers find probable cause that you’re drunk, they’ll arrest you. Facing drunk driving charges means you need to consider your defense strategy quickly. Some options might be time-sensitive so be sure you review them quickly. Working with someone familiar with these matters may help you determine how to proceed.
How Can Our Attorneys Help?
Drunk driving is a serious offense that can have severe consequences. Not only can a DUI charge lead to hefty fines and jail time, but it can also lead to the loss of your driver’s license, your job, and even your life.
Drunk driving deaths are much more common than people think. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, 30% of all traffic-related deaths in the United States involved alcohol-impaired drivers.
Virginia takes drunk driving seriously and has strict laws in order to keep the roads safe. Regardless, in Virginia, the police officer must have a valid reason to stop you. If they don’t, the entire case could be dropped, which includes the DUI charge.
For more questions on alcohol-impaired driving and reasonable suspicion, contact DUI attorneys at Ashwell & Ashwell, PLLC.