A Former Prosecutor Defending Clients in Wyoming and South Dakota
The Constitution requires that a police officer must have both reasonable suspicion and probable cause before placing a driver under arrest for Driving While Under the Influence (DWUI). While the facts of each case are different, every drunk driving arrest begins with a police officer’s reasonable suspicion that a driver was breaking the law, however minor the infraction. If the officer suspects that a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the officer will usually try to establish probable cause for an arrest by asking the driver to perform field sobriety tests and/or a Breathalyzer (BAC) test.
A police officer can use any of the following observations to establish reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed:
The officer does not need to believe that you were Driving While Under the Influence at the time the traffic stop was initiated. In fact, many DWUI charges begin innocently enough, such as with an officer asking if a motorist needs help. However, once the officer has a reasonable suspicion that a crime is taking place, the officer can continue the investigation.
A police officer may investigate further if, after a routine stop for a minor infraction such as a burnt out taillight, the officer has a reasonable suspicion that a driver is impaired.
Other times, reasonable suspicion for a DWUI investigation can be established even if the police officer did not observe a suspect driving. For example, the following observations are enough to establish a reasonable suspicion of a possible DWUI:
Before making an arrest for DWUI, the officer must establish probable cause that a driver is under the influence. The officer must be able to establish exactly why the arrest is being made. Probable cause for an arrest for DWUI may include:
Reasonable suspicion allows a police officer to temporarily stop and detain a driver to investigate further if the officer believes the motorists may have committed a crime. However, to make an arrest, the officer must establish probable cause that a crime has been committed.
Probable cause is a slightly higher standard than a reasonable suspicion, and means that the officer has enough evidence to reasonably believe that a crime has been committed so as to justify making an arrest. In the context of a DWUI charge, probable cause exists if the officer administered a field sobriety test or breathalyzer and the results point to probable intoxication.
The distinction between reasonable suspicion and probable cause is a slight one, but important. To establish a reasonable suspicion, the officer must have some indication the driver might have committed a crime, whereas as to establish probable cause, the officer must have enough evidence to suggest that the motorist most likely committed a crime.
After evaluating the evidence against you, my team of skilled and experienced DWUI defense professionals at Just Criminal Law may be able to challenge whether the officer had reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop, or probable cause to believe that you were intoxicated.
If a police officer makes a traffic stop that was not supported by a reasonable suspicion, or made an arrest without probable cause, an experienced DWUI defense attorney can seek to have evidence of intoxication excluded, which means the judge will not be allowed to consider it. Excluded evidence can lead to a better plea bargain, or having the charge dismissed altogether.
If you are facing Wyoming DWUI charges, it’s important that you have a skilled DWUI defense team on your side.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is offered for educational purposes only. This information is not offered as legal advice. A person accused of a crime should always consult with an attorney before making decisions that have legal consequences.