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DUI—reasonable suspicion versus probable cause

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2024 | DWI |

In Minnesota and elsewhere, legal terminology is often confusing. For example, consider the terms “reasonable suspicion” and “probable cause.” These terms are often mistaken for meaning the same thing but they refer to separate issues. While both may come into play during a DUI stop, a police officer who makes an arrest must be able to document that both elements were established at the proper times. 

Minnesota police conduct traffic stops every day. In this state, and throughout the country, there is such a thing as unlawful detainment. When a police officer makes a traffic stop, a driver is being detained. The police officer must have a legitimate reason for making the stop. This is known as “reasonable suspicion.” For example, if a police officer notices the tires of a moving vehicle veering over the yellow line in traffic, it may constitute a reasonable suspicion that the driver might be intoxicated.  

Probable cause must be established for a DUI arrest 

Having a reasonable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop does not give a police officer a license to make a DUI arrest. To make a lawful arrest for suspected drunk driving, probable cause must be established. This means that an officer must have evidence that suggests there is a high probability that the person who has been detained has committed a crime — in this case, drunk driving.  

If a Minnesota police officer makes an unlawful detainment or arrests someone without probable cause, the accused individual may have grounds for requesting that charges be dropped. It is always best to consult with an experienced defense attorney after being taken into custody for a suspected DUI. This is especially true for those who believe their legal rights were violated at any stage in the process