In Pennsylvania, a DUI conviction can lead to the loss of a driver’s license as well as potential fines, jail time or probation. However, it is possible to challenge drunk driving charges and defend yourself against a DUI allegation. First, it is important to understand what police must prove in order to justify their initial stop and later DUI charges.
Reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop
In order to pull over your vehicle for a traffic stop, the police must have a “reasonable suspicion” of a traffic violation. As the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld in a 2021 decision, the standard for reasonable suspicion is less than that required to show probable cause. Police must be able to show specific facts that would lead them to a reasonable belief that some form of traffic violation occurred. This could include any form of traffic issue, including speeding, reckless driving or even a broken taillight.
Probable cause for DUI
As a drunk driving stop and arrest proceeds, police must have an increasing level of justification to pursue further testing and questioning. It should be noted that DUI checkpoints are not subject to the same rules; however, they must be planned and warned of in advance, and stops must be objective and random rather than conducted by discretion.
Police may seek a probable cause to extend a DUI investigation by looking for physical signs of intoxication such as reddened eyes or slurred speech. Police may cite open alcohol bottles or signs of intoxication as reasons for probable cause to continue the stop, conduct a Breathalyzer test or perform a drunk driving arrest.
A DUI defense attorney may be able to challenge insufficient evidence or police misstatements in order to push back against the prosecution’s claims. If the police officer did not have probable cause to test a driver and place them under arrest for DUI, it might be possible to get the charges dismissed.