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What Is Reasonable Suspicion For A DUI Stop?


The initial probable cause for a DUI stop is usually just a very minor traffic violation. Most commonly, officers will stop people for improper lane usage. However, an improper lane usage offense is very loosely defined. In the state of Illinois, you can stay within your lane without touching either one of the lines to the left or the right, and the officer can still pull you over for improper lane usage if in his subjective opinion you were drifting from side to side within those lines.

Since many police cars have cameras, we can sometimes fight these types of claims. These cameras are supposed to begin recording about two minutes before an officer turns the vehicle’s lights on. I handled a case in which the officer’s police report stated that my client was weaving all over within his lane and that he made an improper turn. When we saw the video, we saw that none of that was true; there was a slight drift within the lane, but you have to remember that cars are not on road rails. They do not go in a perfectly straight line, regardless of who is driving under what conditions.

If a driver looks down for two seconds to read a text message, the chances are that they are going to drift a little bit. If you’re unlucky, an officer will see that and pull you over. If an officer’s truly targeting people for DUI, how hard would it be to sit outside the bar and watch people staggering into their car and driving off? Keep in mind that most people drink at night, so the average cop is on heightened alert around 10 or 11 PM. You’re probably going to get a little more scrutiny if you are driving at those hours. You will get a lot more scrutiny if you are driving at two in the morning because it is unlikely that you are heading to or from work or school. Even of you are driving 10 miles over the speed limit at two in the morning, that would not give a police officer probable cause to begin running you through the gamut of field sobriety tests.

The police can consider the time and the nature of the traffic violation, but the probable cause has to go a step further than that. Usually, once an officer begins questioning a driver, the probable cause starts piling up. At that point, a judge is going to find enough probable cause to allow the officer to ask them to take field sobriety tests.

If the field sobriety tests don’t go perfectly, then the officer will conclude that the person failed them. However, field sobriety tests are hard to perform, especially if it’s late and you’re nervous. Your performance on them may not be any indication whatsoever that you’re under the influence. In order for the officer to even get to the point of having you complete the field sobriety tests, they need to have reasonable suspicion that you were even involved in committing the crime of driving under the influence.

Once you’ve been pulled over on suspicion of DUI, any comment you make can wind up giving the police officer probable cause, even if it’s unwarranted. You will end up being asked to perform the field sobriety tests until the point that the officer decides to arrest you for DUI. In the rare instance that a person does perfectly on the field sobriety tests and it’s all captured on the film, a judge may end up agreeing with that person. Most of the time, however, it’s such a subjective matter and the judge will side with the officer. The judge may remind you that you have the right to refuse the breathalyzer test, but doing so will only give the officer further probable cause to arrest you for DUI.

If an officer pulled you over and you told them that you had two beers, then that statement would give them probable cause to investigate further. If you told them that your attorney told you not to say anything, then they may ask why you don’t want to respond fully in order to prove your innocence. A person has to be able to politely say, “Look, my attorney told me not to say anything.” A lot of cops will immediately start to threaten you by saying, “Look, you can refuse, but I have to tell you that you’re going to get a suspension.” Oftentimes they will fabricate this and say “You’re going to get an immediate suspension for the year for refusing.” However, that’s not true in Illinois. You’re entitled to a hearing 46 days before the suspension kicks in.

With that said, if you don’t take the test and you don’t answer the questions, the officer can still arrest you. So, then it becomes the topic of what we’re talking about and whether or not the officer had probable cause to arrest you for a DUI. Now, the fact that you’re speeding isn’t enough, the fact that you might have bloodshot eyes, for most judges, shouldn’t be enough. If you want to avoid probable cause in a DUI case, you don’t want to start explaining yourself. You politely want to say, “Look, my attorney told me not to say anything; here’s my license and my insurance; am I free to go?” If they say no, then you should stop talking and realize that the officer will probably arrest you.

Most people feel a very strong urge to be cooperative with the police, which is fine. However, you don’t want to be cooperative to the point that you put the noose around your neck. You want to protect yourself. If you are not buzzed, then don’t go through all this crap and instead just say “I’m happy to take the breathalyzer right now.” Just be aware that you might end up saying, “I had no idea it was a 0.12.”

For more information on Reasonable Suspicion For A DUI Stop, a free initial consultation is your best next step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (847) 244-4636 today.

Barry Boches, Esq.

Get your questions answered - call me for your free phone consultation (847) 244-4636.

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