For an officer to have reasonable suspicion, he must have seen enough information to think that a crime has occurred or is about to occur. In the context of DUI, the officer can stop a motorist for a minor traffic violation, such as speeding over the limit, weaving, having the headlight or tail light out, driving too slow and so on. These infractions can change course and lead to investigations into DUI.
Police officers are always on the lookout for minor traffic violations to stop motorists and investigate for possible DUI. Reasonable suspicion for DUI may sometimes be established even when the officer did not witness the motorist driving. For instance, a field sobriety test may be conducted after an automobile accident or if a motorist is found to have passed out or fallen asleep behind the wheel of a parked car with the keys in the ignition.
Requirement for concrete, articulable facts
It is possible that the officer who pulled you over doesn’t have a specific justification for a clear violation of the law. That is, he doesn’t have reasonable articulable suspicion; in fact, he may be plain mistaken when he pulls you over. He may be of the opinion that he has a good stop but that might not be upheld by the court as valid.
A ‘hunch’ is not sufficient reason for reasonable suspicion. The officer must have concrete, articulable facts to draw an inference that the motorist was violating the law. In a Kansas DUI case State v Lackey, the court found that the police did not have reasonable suspicion to stop a car that drove past an accident scene that they were investigating twice. The court opined that the car could have driven by an accident scene more than twice for many reasons, and officers’ hunch that the driver was involved in the accident did not amount to reasonable suspicion.
Evaporation of reasonable suspicion
If the officer stops you for a traffic violation on the basis of reasonable suspicion, but the suspicion then ‘evaporates’, the officer cannot continue with his/her investigation. For instance, evaporation of reasonable suspicion occurs when a police officer who has stopped a motorist for not possessing a license plate then spots a valid temporary permit in the vehicle’s back window. As reasonable suspicion has evaporated, the officer must then stop pursuing the investigation. In a Colorado case People v Cerda, a motorist was pulled up for a cracked windshield. As the investigation proceeded, the officer discerned that the windshield didn’t obstruct the driver’s view and was not significant enough to warrant a ticket.
You have every right to defend your rights in a DUI case involving reasonable suspicion. If you find yourself in a fix, consult a DUI attorney to explore your options and come out of the situation unscathed.