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What is 'Reasonable Suspicion' And How Does it Come Up in DUI Cases?

One way that the police can stop you while driving in Arizona is if they have 'reasonable suspicion' that you've violated a motor vehicle law or were involved in some kind of criminal activity. That means that if you are speeding, make an improper turn, or break some other traffic law while driving in Arizona, the police may pull you over. It also means that if the police have reasonable suspicion that you were involved in some sort of other criminal activity, like a robbery or murder, they can pull you over and stop you as well. However, the police need to have a 'particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal activity,' which means that they have to be able to articulate the objective facts that gave them suspicion that a motor vehicle law was broken, or that someone was involved in criminal activity. Once the police have reasonable suspicion that a driver broke the law, or was involved in criminal activity, the police can pull the car over and initiate a stop in order to investigate further.

In DUI cases in Arizona, the initial stop of a vehicle by the police is often the result of the police applying the reasonable suspicion standard. A typical scenario may go something like this:

Let's say an individual is driving down Scottsdale Road and is speeding. And let's say a cop sees the car speeding and pulls the car over. At that point, the cop approaches the driver's side window, talks to the driver, smells alcohol on the driver's breath and sees that the driver has bloodshot and watery eyes. The cop then asks the driver out of the car, has him blow into a portable breath test device (PBT) and has him do Field Sobriety Tests. At that point, the cop arrests the driver for DUI. In this scenario, the initial stop of the vehicle was proper because the car was speeding, which gave the cop reasonable suspicion to pull him over in the first place. As you can imagine, allegations of driving infractions are often used as pretexts for pullovers.

However, in DUI cases it is often challenged in court whether the police actually had reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle in Arizona, or if they simply pulled a driver over for no reason. If the stop in a DUI case was based on reasonable suspicion (and not some other standard), and it appears that the police did not have the reasonable suspicion required to initiate a lawful stop, the legality of the stop can be questioned in court and the evidence that the police received following the stop can be asked to be suppressed.

An experienced Arizona DUI attorney will review the facts of each case, and determine whether the stop in a particular DUI case needs to be challenged in court.

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