People who are pulled over usually wonder what triggered the traffic stop. Some may assume the officer pulled them over for no reason at all, even though it’s illegal for a law enforcement officer to stop someone without cause.
From the reason for the stop to the methods used to determine whether an officer’s suspicion that a motorist is impaired, each facet of a stop can play a role in a criminal case, including the alleged offender’s defense strategy. As a result, these are three important points to understand about drunk driving stops.
1. Reasonable suspicion is required
Reasonable suspicion requires that the officer must see, smell or hear things that suggest the driver may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Any reasonable person should agree that the officer’s suspicion was reasonable based on the facts. Examples of behaviors that may lead to reasonable suspicion include erratic driving, weaving in and out of lanes or committing traffic violations. Without reasonable suspicion, a traffic stop could be considered invalid.
2. Field sobriety tests vary greatly
Field sobriety tests are designed to evaluate a driver’s balance, coordination and cognitive abilities. Only three tests are recognized as valid by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. These are known as the standardized field sobriety tests and include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the one-leg stand and the walk-and-turn. It’s important to note that these tests are not always foolproof, and factors such as medical conditions or disabilities may affect the results. Typically, any tests not included in the SFST aren’t admissible in court.
3. Chemical tests aren’t always admissible
Officers sometimes rely on a roadside breath test to gauge the impairment of a driver. While these tests can provide valuable information, they aren’t considered reliable enough to be admissible in court. Instead, only a breath test that’s done on a larger, non-portable machine is considered admissible. Other tests that might be part of a court case include urine or blood tests. But even these tests can be challenged under certain circumstances.
Determining your defense strategy for a drunk driving charge isn’t always easy. There are often multiple components to review that can come together to form your defense, so it’s usually best to work with a legal professional who’s familiar with cases like yours.