You’re driving home after dinner, and a police officer pulls your car over. They make you get out and do a field sobriety test. You fail it, and they arrest you. They take you to the station and give you a breath test. You blow a 0.10%.
You don’t question the results of the test, but what you start wondering about is whether or not that stop was even legal. Maybe the officer randomly pulled your car over for no reason. Can they do that? Do the ends justify the means?
They do not. The law says that every traffic stop must begin with probable cause. The police cannot just assume you are under the influence, nor can they make random stops until they find a driver who is.
That said, the probable cause does not have to be the fact that you were intoxicated. They can pull you over for a more minor reason, determine that you may be impaired while talking to you, and then make you do the field sobriety tests. Reasons they may stop you include things like:
- Driving with your lights off
- Having a broken taillight
- Drifting out of your lane
The key thing to remember, though, is that they need some reason to stop you. If they didn’t have one, the entire stop becomes illegal and you may be able to ask for the case to be thrown out. The fact that you were intoxicated does not retroactively make the stop legal.
As you can see, it’s very important to know what options you have when facing OUI charges.