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Does A Police Officer Need Probable Cause For A DUI Arrest



Probable cause is a standard by which a police officer has legal permission to obtain a warrant, conduct a search, or make an arrest for criminal conduct. Does a police officer need probable cause to arrest someone for a charge of driving under the influence?

Does Probable Cause Apply

The shortest answer to this question is that yes. A police officer must have some kind of reasonable belief that a person is driving under the influence in order to arrest them and charge them with a DUI in every state in the United States. If you have been charged with a DUI, contact a DUI lawyer to learn all of your rights.

This edict comes specifically from the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and protects American citizens from "unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath of affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." This means that it is unconstitutional to arrest someone without a specific, rational reason to believe a person has committed a crime.

What Constitutes "Probable Cause"

Probable cause must be stronger than reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion is based on specific, articulable facts, but probable cause requires more, harder evidence. Examples of probable cause for a driving under the influence charge could include:

  • Eyewitness accounts of a visibly drunken individual getting behind the wheel and operating a vehicle on a public roadway.
  • Eyewitness accounts of a vehicle on a public roadway driving erratically. Examples of erratic driving could include:
    • Crossing a yellow line into oncoming traffic, even if no accident occurs
    • Driving off the shoulder of a roadway
    • Speeding or driving considerably under the speed limit

  • If a police officer pulls a driver over for another reason-a broken tail light, for instance-and smells alcohol on the driver or sees other signs of inebriation such as:
    • Slurred speech
    • Difficulty paying attention
    • Rambling or muttering speech
    • Inability to stand

If a police officer pulls a driver over for another reason, suspects the driver is inebriated, and administered roadside sobriety test measures, including a breathalyzer test and the driver fails probable cause exists.

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