Most drunk driving arrests begin with a traffic stop. Law enforcement will pull a driver over, and the interaction could lead to the administration of field sobriety tests, a chemical test or arrest. These situations can be intimidating for drivers, especially those who are unsure of their rights or what to expect from a DUI traffic stop. Police cannot conduct a suspected DUI traffic stop unless there is a clear and valid reason to do so.
If you are facing drunk driving traffic charges, it may be in your interests to look carefully at the circumstances that led to your arrest, starting with the traffic stop. An invalid stop is a violation of your rights, and you have the right to challenge any evidence collected during the interaction. In order to stop a driver, law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion that a crime is taking place.
Behaviors that may give reasonable suspicion
Reasonable suspicion for a drunk driving traffic stop includes any type of behavior or action that gives a law enforcement officer reason to believe that a driver could be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Some of these things may include:
- Swerving or straddling the center line
- Braking for no apparent reason
- Driving at erratic speeds
- Drifting between lanes
- Coming close to hitting other vehicles or stationary objects
- Following other vehicles too closely
- Making an illegal turn
Officers have a significant amount of freedom to make judgement calls in the moment. Any behavior that police determine is reckless or potentially harmful to others could be a valid reason to have a driver pull over. However, reasonable suspicion only gives the officer the right to detain the driver temporarily. In order to investigate further, such as by asking the driver to submit to a field sobriety test, there must be probable cause.
After an arrest
If you are facing DUI or DWI charges in New Jersey, it is in your interests to develop an appropriate defense strategy that will allow you to effectively confront these charges and defend your rights. This process may start by carefully evaluating the circumstances of your DUI traffic stop in order to determine if there were valid grounds to stop you, conduct sobriety tests or place you under arrest.