Any time an officer pulls you over for a traffic stop can be an overwhelming and stressful experience. When that traffic stop leads to an arrest, things can get even worse. If you faced DUI charges following a traffic stop, then you may already be examining the different facets of your case.
One area that may be worthwhile to explore is the traffic stop itself. While many people believe Georgia police officers may pull drivers over without a reason, this is simply not the case. Officers must have reasonable suspicion before initiating a traffic stop.
What is reasonable suspicion?
Before a cop can pull you over, he or she must reasonably suspect that you are committing a crime. Here are just a few examples of when an officer might have reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop:
- A driver who is struggling to maintain his or her lane or is straddling along the center yellow line.
- Making an illegal turn, including turning right at a red light without first coming to a complete stop.
- Driving either too fast or too slow.
- Frequently applying the brake, even when it is not necessary or there are no other cars around.
- Coming to a complete stop while still in the road without an apparent reason.
These are all valid reasons for initiating a traffic stop. It is not acceptable for an officer to pull you over simply because of boredom or because there is not much else going on. The good news is that you may be able to challenge charges that stem from an unjustified traffic stop.
What about probable cause?
Reasonable suspicion is what gives an officer the right to initiate a traffic stop and temporarily detain a driver. This occurs when an officer believes that the driver may have committed a crime, such as driving under the influence of alcohol. Reasonable suspicion is not enough to move forward with an arrest.
Instead, an officer must have probable cause to make an arrest. At its most basic, probable cause means that the attending officer has some type of evidence that you committed a crime. When it comes to DUI charges, that could be something like the results of a field sobriety test or blood-alcohol content test.
Just because an officer arrested you does not mean that the circumstances leading to that arrest were valid. Challenging whether the arresting officer had reasonable suspicion to even initiate a traffic stop is often a jumping-off point for defendants who are eager to limit the impact of a DUI charge. Other factors are often at play in DUI cases, though, which is why you might find it helpful to have a more thorough understanding of Georgia criminal law.