What is Probable Cause?

Posted by Richard Lawson | Aug 31, 2019 | 0 Comments

When a police officer arrests someone for suspicion of a DUI, he is required to have probable cause to believe you are driving under the influence. The basis for a police officer's initial stop of you or your vehicle may help support his decision to arrest you for DUI, but this basis cannot stand alone without probable cause.

As a Forsyth County DUI Lawyer, I have spent my career defending those accused of drug and alcohol-related crimes. In today's blog, I'm going to discuss probable cause, a fundamental part of any DUI arrest.

Probable Cause is a requirement found in the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution that must ordinarily be met before police obtain a warrant, conduct a search, or make an arrest. Courts typically find probable cause if there are reasonable grounds for believing a crime has been committed.

In a DUI case, an officer sometimes obtains information by taking advantage of drivers who are unaware of the law. Before the officer even pulls the car over, evidence is already being gathered against the driver. Such evidence includes failure to maintain lane, following too closely, accidents, weaving on the roadway, or stop sign violations.

Once the stop is initiated, probable cause can be further supported by the officer's observations of the driver's intoxication. This includes slurred speech, open containers, the smell of alcohol on the driver's breath, bloodshot eyes, and how well the driver performs on field sobriety tests.

There are ways a driver can minimize the collection of this type of evidence, such as only rolling the window down a crack, making sure you have your license and registration within easy reach, not looking the officer directly in the face, and keeping your eyes forward instead of looking into the light the office shines in your eyes. While all these maneuvers may make the officer suspicious, they allow the driver to avoid self-incrimination. It should be noted, however, that an experienced DUI Task Force officer will quickly be able to recognize these attempts to avoid detection.

The next step in a standard investigation is for the officer to ask the suspected DUI driver to step out of his or her vehicle. This is the step that most drivers could entirely avoid if they were aware of the applicable law. Field sobriety tests, including the One Leg Stand (OLS), the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), and the Walk and Turn (WAT), are totally voluntary. Refusal to participate in field sobriety tests carries no penalty. In fact, most lawyers would recommend that you refuse to submit to any of the aforementioned tests, regardless of how much you've had to drink. These tests are designed for you to fail. We have even had clients who "failed" a field sobriety test, but the blood test revealed that their BAC was well below the legal limit.

Practice Note

Knowing your rights can be the determining factor of whether you will be arrested or not. At the Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson, our Forsyth County DUI attorneys are more than equipped to handle your case. If you have been charged with a DUI in Forsyth County, call our office today. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Richard S. Lawson is passionate about intoxicated driving defense. Unlike some attorneys, Mr. Lawson devotes 100% of his legal practice to helping people stand up for their rights against DUI charges. For more than 20 years, Mr. Lawson has dutifully fought for his clients' freedom, resolving more 4,900 impaired driving cases during the course of his career. Today, Mr. Lawson has developed a reputation as a skilled negotiator and continues to help clients by fighting to keep them out of jail.


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