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Judge John E. Turner (Ret.)

Reasonable suspicion and DUI-related traffic stops

Motorists in Washington and other states across the country who may find themselves facing drunk driving charges may want to know whether the traffic stop that led to their DUI was allowable under the law. In most instances, law enforcement officers must have reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred before a driver can be stopped and detained for even a brief period of time.

With reasonable suspicion, an officer is allowed an interval of time during a traffic stop to investigate the suspected criminal activity further. Following established protocols, police could administer a variety of field sobriety tests and/or a breath test. If the results of the tests indicate driver impairment, the allegedly intoxicated person could be taken into custody under the higher standard of probable cause.

Suspected drunk drivers can be stopped by police for a variety of allegations such as making an illegal turn, drifting from one lane to another or braking more frequently than warranted by conditions. Other observable signs that are used by authorities in order to establish reasonable suspicion of driving under the influence include straddling the center line, barely missing collisions with other cars and stopping in the middle of a street for no apparent reason.

In short, any instance of erratic driving that is observed by an officer could establish reasonable suspicion and lead to a DUI traffic stop. A Washington motorist who is charged with drunk driving may want to take their case to a criminal justice attorney for evaluation. If reasonable suspicion was not established in a particular situation, the lawyer might be able to have the charges dismissed.

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