Challenging Your DUI: Lack of Probable Cause

What evidence could provide an officer with probable cause to arrest you?

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution holds that the American people have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Further, no warrants shall issue except upon probable cause.  Per the Fourth Amendment, a police officer cannot arbitrarily stop you, expect under narrow circumstances like a valid sobriety checkpoint. Rather, to stop your vehicle, an officer needs reasonable suspicion that you have violated the law, and must have probable cause to arrest you on a charge of DUI.  If you have been arrested for a DUI in Arizona, possible defenses you could raise would be lack of reasonable suspicion to enact a stop or lack of probable cause to issue your arrest.

Reasonable Suspicion

Your DUI arrest will start with reasonable suspicion on the part of the law enforcement officer.  To stop your vehicle, the officer must have an objectively reasonable basis to suspect criminal activity.  Grounds for reasonable suspicion could include speeding, driving erratically, driving with an expired license plate, failure to stop at a stop sign, and the like.  Alternatively, an officer could potentially lawfully stop you at a DUI check point that complies with Arizona and federal law.

Probable Cause

Even if the stop is legitimate, an officer must meet the higher standard of probable cause in order to arrest you for a DUI.  Probable cause is defined as an objective belief that you have committed a crime. An arresting officer will need to point to concrete facts that support an objective belief that you drove intoxicated.  In forming a basis for probable cause, the officer will consider your driving behavior, your conduct after the stop, and any evidence gathered by the field sobriety or breathalyzer tests.

At times, a defendant can successfully challenge an arrest by presenting evidence to contradict the officer’s supposed probable cause or challenging the admission of faulty evidence, thereby negating probable cause.  There are several grounds on which to challenge a finding of probable cause, including:

  • The field sobriety tests:  In Arizona, a police officer with reasonable suspicion that you have been driving intoxicated can request that you perform several field sobriety tests.  You can refuse such tests. If you consent and perform the tests, your conduct could provide the officer with probable cause. Your defense attorney will likely review any audio or video recordings of the test, along with the officer’s notations.  If your behavior did not raise suspicion of intoxication, this could be grounds for a lack of probable cause. Alternatively, should the tests be ruled invalid for not complying with federal and state mandates, this may result in dismissal of the case for lack of probable cause for the arrest.
  • The Breathalyzer test:  Once you have been pulled over, the officer will likely request that you complete a roadside Breathalyzer test. You have the right to refuse this test, though it may have implications for your driver’s license.  Should you refuse to consent, the officer may be left without evidence with which to establish probable cause. If you do consent, then the results could provide grounds for probable cause to arrest. You will still have the opportunity to challenge the validity of the test and if the test is deemed inadmissible, this could go towards a finding of lack of probable cause.

To start building your strong DUI defense, you will need to contact a DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible.  Your attorney will review the circumstances surrounding your arrest and determine your strongest defense against the charges you face.