DWI charges and probable cause to stop a car

August 4, 2022
DWI charges and probable cause to stop a car

Maybe you’re facing DWI charges and you were drinking. You’re not contesting that. What concerns you about the way you got arrested, though, was that the police never had a reason to stop your car in the first place.

Remember, officers cannot make random stops. They can’t decide to pull over all the cars that they see just to give out tests and see if they get lucky enough to find a drunk driver. While the controversial exception to this is when they use checkpoints, most officers on patrol don’t have this freedom. They need probable cause to stop the car.

What does probable cause look like? It may stem from driving mistakes that a person makes because they’re intoxicated. They don’t crash, but the officer sees them driving erratically and nearly getting into accidents, decides they may be impaired by drugs or alcohol, and initiates a stop.

They can also run traffic stops for basic reasons, like speeding, running a red light, failing to yield the right of way or something of this nature. These stops do not start as DWI investigations, but the officer may then see signs of impairment and decide to take that next step.

Furthermore, officers can initiate stops for more minor reasons, like driving with a broken headlight or taillight. The officer may just plan to inform the driver of the issue and then smell the odor of alcohol when they get to the window.

Regardless, they need a reason. The stop has to follow a certain set of steps. If it did not, you definitely need to know what legal defense options you have.


For personalized legal guidance, call our office at 417-882-9300 or submit this form to schedule a meeting with an attorney.

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