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Articles Posted in Traffic Law

Have you ever wondered when a police officer is authorized to search you? Or if he has enough evidence against you to make an arrest? This is where the familiar terms “reasonable suspicion” and “probable cause” come in to play. These concepts are fundamental in determining if and when a person can be detained for questioning, searched and arrested (seized).

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures. But what exactly does ‘unreasonable’ mean? Rather than following a neat, concise set of legal rules, reasonable suspicion and probable cause are based on the circumstantial interpretation made by the police officer(s). However, the officer’s interpretation must align with the Constitution, which is not always the case. In this week’s post I break down these two terms and provide examples through hypothetical DUI stops.

● Reasonable suspicion for an investigative stop – An officer can briefly detain a person if he has a reasonable belief that a crime has been, is being, or will be committed. The officer may also perform a limited search (frisk) of the outside of the person’s clothing if he has a reasonable belief that the person is armed. The officer’s belief must be based on facts or circumstances. In other words, an officer cannot simply “guess” or “feel” as though a crime has been, is being, or will be committed.

If you’re pulled over for a simple traffic violation, you may feel intimidated. If you’re pulled over after you’ve been drinking, that intimidation is often accompanied by a mix of emotions – especially if you don’t know your rights! The Commonwealth of Virginia is among the strictest states when it comes to drinking and driving. Although an officer doesn’t need much to charge you with DUI in Virginia, the charge must be supported by evidence for a conviction to follow it. This week’s blog demonstrates what to do (and not do) in order to leave the prosecution with as little evidence against you as possible.

In order to justify a traffic stop, the officer must have reasonable suspicion that you are in the process of committing a crime, you have committed a crime, or you are about to commit a crime. Most individuals arrested for DUI or DWI are originally pulled over for speeding, failure to fully stop at a stop sign, swerving, or some other type of erratic driving behavior (i.e. you have committed a crime). However, just because you drank before you drove, doesn’t mean you are guilty of DUI or DWI. Please visit our DUI & DWI page to understand the difference between driving under the influence and driving while intoxicated.


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