When the police stop someone for suspected DUI, they start looking for evidence immediately. From the questions they ask to the test they suggest, everything is designed to collect evidence of impairment. In fact, there are various ways police establish probable cause in a drunk driving incident.
Some background on the legal concept of probable cause may be useful, but you should discuss the details of your case with a Pennsylvania DUI attorney if you’re facing similar charges.
In a criminal case such as DUI, probable cause is any sign that may lead an officer to reasonably believe that a crime has been or is being committed.
In suspected drunk driving cases, there must be some behavior that indicates impairment. This includes erratic driving, violating traffic laws, or a collision. However, probable cause isn’t always obvious. Under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, there is a protection against unreasonable search and seizure, so an officer must have more than just a hunch.
In general, probable cause requires facts that demonstrate a high probability that the driver is impaired or consumed alcohol in excess of the legal limit. Visual findings, like a driver’s mannerisms, speech, or behavior, can be enough to meet probable cause standards. A police officer may also establish probable cause by other circumstances, including the smell of alcohol or open containers in the car.
In Pennsylvania, authorities may also use field sobriety tests to establish probable cause. The Walk-and-Turn and One-Leg-Stand tests are common. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test assesses your impairment by determining how well you can focus on a moving object, such as a pen.
After establishing probable cause, an officer can proceed to tests that provide more concrete evidence of drunk driving. This includes using a breathalyzer or blood test.
If the police fail to identify facts that lead to probable cause to arrest you for DUI, any evidence gathered from that point on may not be admissible in court. This may lead to a dismissal in some cases.
Even if you weren’t driving erratically or involved in a collision, there can still be questions about officers’ probable cause to charge you with DUI. You may be able to present defenses to fight the charges, but you need a qualified criminal defense lawyer.
At the the Skinner Law Firm in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we have the experience and legal background necessary to help you obtain the best possible result. Call (610) 436-1410 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.