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Did police have reasonable suspicion to pull you over?

If you are driving home one night and the lights of a police car go on behind you, your first thought may be, "What have I done wrong?" That is because police typically will not pull you over unless they witness you committing a violation or otherwise suspect you of wrongdoing.

Aside from sobriety checkpoints, which are legal in Tennessee and most other states, police cannot pull you over for no reason. The law protects you from an officer who may wish to stop your vehicle just to see if you might be committing a crime. Instead, police must have a reasonable suspicion that you are involved in criminal activity, including driving your vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

Understanding reasonable suspicion

Reasonable suspicion must be more than simply the fact that you pulled out of the parking lot of a local bar. Your actions must demonstrate that you may be impaired, and police will then pull you over to investigate further and gather evidence of a crime. Some behaviors that may arouse reasonable suspicion in a police officer include:

  • Drifting across lanes
  • Driving too slowly or too fast
  • Making an illegal turn
  • Braking for no reason
  • Narrowly missing other vehicles
  • Stopping in the road for no reason

Officers may not witness any of these actions and still have reasonable suspicion that you may be impaired. For example, if they find you sleeping in your car or if you fail field sobriety tests following an accident, this may provide reasonable suspicion. Once they have reasonable suspicion, they must establish probable cause, which means they have enough evidence to justify your arrest for DUI. Typically, this is the result of a blood alcohol concentration test.

Challenging the arrest

If an officer arrests you but cannot demonstrate to the court that there was reasonable suspicion for making the traffic stop, the judge may dismiss the case even if your subsequent BAC was over the legal limit. A skillful defense attorney will examine the circumstances of your arrest and challenge it in court if the evidence of reasonable suspicion does not exist.

Having a legal advocate at your side any time you face criminal charges can provide many benefits. The consequences of a DUI conviction can touch many areas of your life for years to come. You would be wise to understand your rights and fight for them.

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