A Tacoma WA DUI Attorney Looks at Reasonable Suspicion in DUI Cases

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

In this article, a Tacoma WA DUI attorney examines the issue of reasonable suspicion in a DUI stop.

They Can’t Stop You on a Whim

In order for a police officer to pull you over, he or she must have a solid reason to believe that you are in violation of the law. They usually base this decision on the evidence of their own eyes. In other words, there must be a “reasonable suspicion” of wrongdoing before a legitimate stop can be made.

What Constitutes Reasonable Suspicion

There is considerable variation among state laws, cases, and the individuals involved that impact how reasonable suspicion is defined. While generalities may be shared, the specifics of each case can vary greatly. No two sets of circumstances, no two police officers, no two drivers, and no two sets of state statutes are identical. Even the types of observations that may trigger an officer’s suspicions can be profoundly different from one officer to another. Given all of the human factors involved, a rigid definition of reasonable suspicion is difficult, if not impossible.

Reasonable Vs. Unreasonable

A simple license and registration check does not constitute reasonable suspicion. This is upheld by a decision handed down by the United States Supreme Court, after reviewing a situation in which a police officer stopped a driver because he didn’t happen to be on a call at the moment. The officer said, “I saw the car in the area and wasn’t answering any complaints, so I decided to pull them off.” Under the Supreme Court’s ruling, it takes more than that to constitute a legal stop.

Reasonable Suspicion Vs. Probable Cause

As stated in the Supreme Court’s ruling, “articulable and reasonable suspicion” must be in evidence before a stop can be lawfully made. In other words, if a police officer believes that there is genuine reason to suspect wrongdoing, such as DUI or driving a stolen vehicle, he or she is correct to make the stop. They can stop you based on reasonable suspicion, but they can only arrest you if they have probable cause.

The DUI Lawyer Vs. The Officer in the Field

Each of these individuals must interpret the circumstances of the stop and determine whether articulable and reasonable suspicion was present or not. However, while the DUI attorney makes this determination after a review of the reports in the safety of his or her office, the police officer must evaluate the situation instantly and decide at that moment. The indistinct nature of reasonable suspicion and the subjective factors of human judgment, experience, and point of view can cause profound differences between how the police officer interprets the events and how an attorney sees those same events.

Good Faith Is Not Enough

The fact that the officer stopped you firmly believing in the correctness of the decision is not enough to make the stop a lawful one. Dedication to duty, honor, and a genuine desire to serve and protect are all admirable and desirable qualities, but they cannot make an improper stop proper. An attorney in court, while giving full credit to these qualities on the part of the officer, must point out that even an honest mistake is still a mistake. Granted, the officer may have had only seconds to make a determination, but for the stop to be legal, that determination must be the correct one.

Call Your Tacoma WA DUI Attorney Today

If you believe that you were pulled over unlawfully, don’t hesitate. Seek help now by calling Greene & Lloyd, PLLC at (253) 770-0808 today.



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