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What Is Probable Cause for a DUI Stop in New Hampshire?

  • By: MMM
  • Published: June 23, 2022

Having a driver’s license is a privilege, and that privilege can be suspended or revoked. However, it must be within your rights. As a driver, you have certain rights that have to be upheld and protected. One of those rights is protection against wrongful traffic stops. Police need a reason to pull you over. Every traffic stop, even those for drunk driving, must be done because of reasonable suspicion. Police officers must have reasonable suspicion that the law is being violated before pulling someone over. 

What Is Probable Cause or Reasonable Suspicion?

The basis for reasonable suspicion or probable cause range from traffic violations to malfunctioning tail lights. However, a police officer cannot legally pull you over on a whim. In New Hampshire, the supreme court ruled that “reasonable suspicion must be more than a hunch, and the articulated facts must lead somewhere specific, not just a general sense that “this is probably a person who may have committed some kind of crime.” Therefore, if an officer doesn’t have a valid reason for pulling someone over, it may be considered illegal, unconstitutional, and inadmissible in court.

What Constitutes Reasonable Suspicion?

Police officers are trained to identify signs of impaired driving that can constitute reasonable suspicion. Some signs they look out for include:

  • Failure to use headlights
  • Swerving 
  • Crossing the centerline
  • Illegal turns
  • Drifting 
  • Weaving between lanes
  • Slow driving 
  • Driving with face close to the windshield
  • Braking frequently 

Numerous behaviors may indicate that someone is driving under the influence, which constitutes reasonable suspicion. An officer can pull you over for any traffic violation, and if they suspect you’re drunk driving, they can ask you to take a sobriety test.

What Constitutes Probable Cause?

Probable cause is when there is evidence that a crime has likely occurred. During a DUI stop, the criteria for a probable cause include:

  • Failing a field sobriety test
  • Registering a prohibited BAC level on a breathalyzer 
  • Slurred speech
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • The smell of alcohol on your breath 
  • Dilated pupils
  • Open alcohol containers 

Reasonable suspicion allows an officer to stop and detain a motorist. Once they have stopped the individual, they must meet a higher standard of “probable cause” before arresting a suspected drunk driver. Meeting the standard of probable cause means obtaining evidence that a reasonable person would believe that a crime has been committed. 

Probable cause means that the officer has enough evidence to suggest that the driver has most likely committed a crime. Reasonable suspicion means that the officer has a reasonable indication that the driver might have committed a crime.

Why You Need a DUI Defense Attorney 

When the stop made by an officer can not be proven to be done under reasonable suspicion, the evidence obtained during the stop generally isn’t admissible in court. When an illegal stop or arrest is made, that often results in the evidence being thrown out and can lead to the charges being dropped. 

However, having the evidence thrown out or for the charges to be dropped requires proving that the stop was, in fact, unconstitutional and that the suspected drunk driver had their rights violated. For this reason, it’s often imperative to have a skilled attorney review your case and investigate the traffic stop. 

New Hampshire DUI Defense Attorney at Shepherd & Hayes

At Shepherd & Hayes, PLLC, our DUI attorneys utilize effective, aggressive strategies to help you avoid facing severe consequences for a drunk driving arrest. Our DUI defense attorneys have handled hundreds of DUI cases throughout New Hampshire and know what constitutes reasonable suspicion and probable cause. When those rights are violated, our attorneys know how to push back against prosecutors and achieve a favorable outcome for our clients. Contact our office today by calling (603) 233-1626 or filling out our contact form.

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