What Counts as Reasonable Suspicion in a Texas DWI Case?

car gets pulled over by police

Generally, police officers must have reasonable suspicion that a driver is committing or has committed a crime to pull him/her over. A police officer cannot simply stop a motorist because they have a feeling.

However, just because a police officer must have reasonable suspicion, they do not need to possess actual knowledge that a crime was or is being committed. (Three Musts after Being Charged with a Crime in Texas)

If you have been charged with driving while intoxicated in Texas, you might want to discuss your case with a Round Rock criminal attorney to determine if the police officer who stopped and arrested you had reasonable suspicion to pull you over.

What is Reasonable Suspicion?

Reasonable suspicion is a legal standard of proof used in criminal cases that is less than probable cause. The legal standard is used to justify arrests and traffic stops.

A police officer may have reasonable suspicion to stop a driver of a motor vehicle who is suspected of illegal activity when any reasonable person would have stopped the motorist under similar circumstances.

It means that if you were arrested for DWI, the officer who stopped you and made the arrest must clearly explain the reasons for stopping your vehicle. The reasons articulated by the officer will be considered in the context of your case to determine if the police had reasonable suspicion to pull you over.

In other words, police have reasonable suspicion to stop you when the officer who pulled you over had objectively justifiable suspicion based on specific facts that warranted the traffic stop.

Example. A police officer sees a motor vehicle weaving in and out of lanes and driving. It’s Friday night, and the vehicle is driving from a street where several nightclubs and bars are located. The officer has reasonable suspicion to stop the car.

When Do Police Officers Have Reasonable Suspicion to Stop a Vehicle?

Reasonable suspicion exists when police officers have an objectively justifiable suspicion that you are engaging in an unlawful activity or have committed a crime. The reasonable suspicion standard requires an objective evaluation of all the available facts and circumstances of a unique situation.

There are many different factors that may give police officers reasonable suspicion to stop a motor vehicle:

  1. Weaving in and out of lanes. If you fail to remain within your designated lane without crossing over the lines, the police may have reasonable suspicion that you are intoxicated. Being impaired by alcohol or drugs makes it difficult to maintain your lane while operating a vehicle.

  2. Speeding. Driving above the speed limit is against the law, which is why speeding can give police officers grounds to stop your vehicle. If the officer determines that you are drunk, you could be arrested for DWI.

  3. Wrong-way driving. It is not uncommon for drunk drivers to drive against the direction of traffic. Wrong-way driving could be an indication that a driver is impaired.

  4. Inconsistent speed. Failing to maintain a consistent speed when driving could also raise suspicion that you are impaired by alcohol or drugs.

  5. Running red lights/stop signs. Intoxicated motorists have poor judgment and slower reaction, which is why many end up running red lights and stop signs. If the police see that you fail to obey road signs and traffic lights, they may have reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop.

  6. Nearly causing an accident. Even if you were able to avoid a near-accident, the fact that you almost caused a crash may give the police reasonable suspicion to stop you.

  7. Braking too often. When a driver is braking too frequently, it could be one of the indications of drunk driving because intoxicated motorists have impaired reaction. Braking every 10 feet for no reason or stopping in the middle of the highway could be a red flag to the police.

  8. Making illegal turns. Any violations of traffic rules, including making illegal turns, give the police reasonable suspicion to pull a motorist over.

  9. Driving without lights. Impaired motorists often forget to turn their lights on when operating a motor vehicle. While even sober drivers sometimes forget to turn their lights, driving without lights could also be a sign of drunk driving.

It is advisable to consult with a criminal defense attorney if you have been stopped by the police and charged with DWI to determine if the officers had reasonable suspicion to make the traffic stop.

What to Do if Police Did Not Have Reasonable Suspicion to Stop You?

A traffic stop made when no reasonable suspicion existed to pull the driver over can invalidate the subsequent arrest and criminal charges. That is why you should speak with an experienced attorney if you believe that the police did not have reasonable suspicion to stop you before your DWI arrest.

In Texas, the prosecution must be able to prove that you were guilty of driving while intoxicated beyond a reasonable doubt. In the absence of evidence proving that a driver was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a judge will not convict the defendant.

If a traffic stop that led to a DWI arrest was not supported by reasonable suspicion, your attorney could suppress any evidence obtained during the stop, including the results of the Breathalyzer test that showed your impairment.

When evidence obtained during a stop that lacked reasonable suspicion is suppressed, it cannot be used by the prosecutor to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, the prosecution may have a hard time proving that you were driving while intoxicated to convince the court to convict you of DWI.

Contact a Round Rock Criminal Attorney Today

If you have been arrested for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it is in your best interests to consult with a skilled attorney to discuss your DWI defense strategies.

Our attorneys at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard may be able to help you prove that the police did not have reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop. Call 254-501-4040 to discuss your particular situation.

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