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What Is the Difference Between Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause for a Wyoming DWUI Charge?

An Experienced Wyoming DWUI Defense Lawyer Can Challenge Whether the Police Had a Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause to Make the Stop

The Constitution requires that a police officer must have both reasonable suspicion and probable cause before placing a driver under arrest for Driving While Under the Influence (DWUI). While the facts of each case are different, every drunk driving arrest begins with a police officer’s reasonable suspicion that a driver was breaking the law, however minor the infraction. If the officer suspects that a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the officer will usually try to establish probable cause for an arrest by asking the driver to perform field sobriety tests and/or a Breathalyzer (BAC) test.

Common Reasons to Initiate a Traffic Stop

A police officer can use any of the following observations to establish reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed:

  • Straddling the center line
  • Illegal turn
  • Drifting from one lane to another
  • Nearly hitting another car on the road
  • Extremely slow or erratic driving
  • Frequent braking
  • Weaving
  • Stopping in the middle of the road for no apparent reason

The officer does not need to believe that you were Driving While Under the Influence at the time the traffic stop was initiated. In fact, many DWUI charges begin innocently enough, such as with an officer asking if a motorist needs help. However, once the officer has a reasonable suspicion that a crime is taking place, the officer can continue the investigation.

Reasonable Suspicion that a Motorist Was Driving While Under the Influence

A police officer may investigate further if, after a routine stop for a minor infraction such as a burnt out taillight, the officer has a reasonable suspicion that a driver is impaired.

Other times, reasonable suspicion for a DWUI investigation can be established even if the police officer did not observe a suspect driving. For example, the following observations are enough to establish a reasonable suspicion of a possible DWUI:

  • Alcohol in the vehicle (whether opened or unopened)
  • The smell of alcohol on the driver’s breath or in the vehicle
  • Red, watery, or glassy eyes
  • Slurred speech
  • Disorientation or fumbling

Probable Cause for an Arrest

Before making an arrest for DWUI, the officer must establish probable cause that a driver is under the influence. The officer must be able to establish exactly why the arrest is being made. Probable cause for an arrest for DWUI may include:

  • Failing field sobriety tests
  • Failing a breathalyzer test
  • Confessing that you are drunk or have been drinking

What Is the Difference Between Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause?

Reasonable suspicion allows a police officer to temporarily stop and detain a driver to investigate further if the officer believes the motorists may have committed a crime. However, to make an arrest, the officer must establish probable cause that a crime has been committed.

Probable cause is a slightly higher standard than a reasonable suspicion, and means that the officer has enough evidence to reasonably believe that a crime has been committed so as to justify making an arrest. In the context of a DWUI charge, probable cause exists if the officer administered a field sobriety test or breathalyzer and the results point to probable intoxication.

The distinction between reasonable suspicion and probable cause is a slight one, but important. To establish a reasonable suspicion, the officer must have some indication the driver might have committed a crime, whereas as to establish probable cause, the officer must have enough evidence to suggest that the motorist most likely committed a crime.

What a Wyoming DWUI Defense Lawyer Can Do for You

After evaluating the evidence against you, my team of skilled and experienced DWUI defense professionals at The Law Office of Christina L. Williams may be able to challenge whether the officer had reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop, or probable cause to believe that you were intoxicated.

If a police officer makes a traffic stop that was not supported by a reasonable suspicion, or made an arrest without probable cause, an experienced DWUI defense attorney can seek to have evidence of intoxication excluded, which means the judge will not be allowed to consider it. Excluded evidence can lead to a better plea bargain, or having the charge dismissed altogether.

If you are facing Wyoming DWUI charges, it’s important that you have a skilled DWUI defense team on your side.

Contact The Law Office of Christina L. Williams today for assistance defending you against Wyoming DWUI charges. Call (307) 686-6556, email office@wyocriminallaw.com, or complete our online form.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is offered for educational purposes only. This information is not offered as legal advice. A person accused of a crime should always consult with an attorney before making decisions that have legal consequences.

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