DWI Probable Cause

What Constitutes Probable Cause in a DWI Arrest?

Check out the following educational legal video by Daniel J. Chiacchia, an experienced Hamburg DWI Attorney about DWI probable cause and how it can be justified or fought in a DWI case.

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Every once in awhile, a client says, “I don’t think that officer had any right to pull me over. They didn’t have a right to arrest me.” The fact is that, in order for an officer to pull a moving vehicle over, he must have a reasonable suspicion that a Vehicle and Traffic Law violation has occurred. What does that mean? Here’s an example.

Years ago, we handled a case involving an individual who veered outside his lane to avoid a pothole. We were able to establish that because we got involved early and took some photographs of the roadway. The Vehicle and Traffic Law – and some case law – says a driver can legally move outside the traffic lane to avoid obstructions in the roadway and things of that nature. In that case, we were able to get the charge dismissed because we were able to show that there was no reasonable suspicion that any Vehicle and Traffic Law violation occurred because the driver had a legitimate reason to move outside of his lane.

Beyond that, an officer must have reasonable cause to believe that a driver is intoxicated. How does he prove that? He relies on direct observations. Does he smell alcohol? Are your eyes bloodshot and watery? Is your speech slurred? Is your coordination impaired? Many times, officers ask you to perform certain maneuvers called field sobriety tests. They may ask you to recite the ABCs, count on your fingers (1-2-3-4, 4-3-2-1), walk a straight line, stand on one foot, touch your finger to your nose with your eyes closed, or count backwards. If the officer believes you were unable to perform those tests satisfactorily, he may consider that failure additional grounds to arrest you for driving while intoxicated.

Many officers carry a pre-screening device – sometimes called an Alco-Sensor – and ask drivers to blow into it on the side of the road. If the device registers positive for alcohol, that’s another basis for them to arrest you. If you elect to take the test and pass it, they can’t charge you with having an excessive blood-alcohol content in your system. If you blow a reading of 0.08 or higher when submitting to the test at the station – based on what’s called a Datamaster in most jurisdictions – that result will be considered probable cause for charging you with DWI for having an excessive amount of alcohol in your blood.

Do you have questions about what justifies DWI probable cause and whether the arresting officer had enough proof? It’s important to retain the council of our experienced Hamburg DWI Attorneys as soon as possible to help protect your freedom and minimize your consequences. Contact Chiacchia & Fleming, LLP to schedule a confidential consultation today.

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