Reasonable Articulable Suspicion to Stop Your Vehicle

Do police officers have the right to stop me for the sole reason of determining if I am intoxicated?

The United States Constitution offers certain unalienable rights. Chief among them is the right against unreasonable searches and seizures set out in the Fourth Amendment. Per the Fourth Amendment and the vast body of case law interpreting this important right, a police officer cannot stop your vehicle for no reason at all.  In order for an officer to lawfully stop your car on suspicion that you are driving under the influence, he or she must have a reasonable, articulable suspicion. Reasonable articulable suspicion requires more than a mere hunch. One of the top successful defenses against DUI arrests is challenging the stop as unlawful. Below, our Phoenix DUI defense lawyers discuss what constitutes a reasonable, articulable suspicion and whether you may have a valid challenge to your stop.

Defining a Reasonable Articulable Suspicion 

The phrase reasonable articulable suspicion can be difficult to define and understand for those not intimately familiar with the legal world.  Court cases attempting to define the term have held that reasonable means based upon sound judgment. Articulable means specific facts that can be put into words.  This standard is easier to meet than probable cause to arrest but requires more than a hunch or unparticularized suspicion.

In reviewing the legality of a stop, the court will look to the totality of the circumstances.  Your defense attorney, should he or she believe you may have been subjected to an illegal stop, will need to file a motion raising the issue.  Circumstances that have been held to constitute an unlawful stop include merely leaving a bar, driving late at night, racial profiling, and no evidence you drove the vehicle or the vehicle was driven.  In each of these scenarios, courts have found that the officer did not have a sufficient reasonable articulable suspicion to stop the driver. Every case is unique, however, and will require an examination of the individual factors. 

If you are successful in challenging your stop as unlawful, then the DUI case against you should be dismissed because all evidence gathered after the stop is deemed inadmissible.  For this reason, it is a powerful defense. Consult your DUI defense lawyer for more information as to whether you should attempt to challenge the stop in your case.

Posted in DUI