What warrants reasonable suspicion for DUI in Pennsylvania?

Police officers can’t arrest someone based on a feeling or “hunch” that the person committed a crime. Instead, officers must follow the legal standard of reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion is the basis for the second criteria for arrest, probable cause.

You may have legal recourse for your DUI arrest if your attorney can prove that the arresting officer did not have reasonable suspicion to arrest you. Only a competent and experienced lawyer would be able to successfully carry out this argument. Trust expert Pennsylvania DUI attorney Steven Kellis to represent you and work toward having your charges dropped or reduced.

Legal Definition of Reasonable Suspicion

Used in criminal procedure, reasonable suspicion is the standard for determining the legality of a police officer’s decision to search a person’s vehicle or belongings. Officers cannot make arrests on reasonable suspicion alone; after establishing reasonable suspicion, an officer must obtain a search warrant or have probable cause to do so.

Acceptable reasonable suspicion will almost always be based on three things: the officer’s training, the circumstances of the situation, and the knowledge of what other officers would do in similar circumstances.

Based on their training and experience, police officers can look for signs of intoxication from alcohol or drugs:

  • Driving noticeably slower than the speed limit or other drivers
  • Driving erratically (swerving, repeatedly hitting the curb, having a delayed response to traffic lights)
  • Drifting between lanes
  • Turning illegally or failing to stop for lights
  • Braking overly frequently or stopping in traffic for no reason

Here’s where things can get tricky: if a police officer has reasonable suspicion, they may stop the person, but they cannot make an arrest based on reasonable suspicion alone. For example, if a driver is swerving between lanes and failing to stop for lights, the police officer may have reasonable suspicion that the driver is drunk.

The officer can pull the car over, but they cannot arrest the driver unless they have further evidence of drunk driving, such as the smell of alcohol on the driver’s breath or an open bottle of alcohol on the seat beside them. Failing a sobriety test after being pulled over could provide probable cause for the officer to make an arrest.

Legal Options for Wrongful Arrest

Police officers are human and make mistakes just like the rest of us. Unfortunately, those mistakes often result in wrongful arrests and convictions. Whether the officer made an honest mistake or an intentional act of harm against you, you may be able to fight your charges with the help of an experienced Pennsylvania DUI lawyer.

As a former prosecutor, attorney Steven Kellis knows the ins and outs of DUI law in Pennsylvania. He understands the common arguments that the prosecution makes and will work hard to refute their claims against you.

One of the most common scenarios for illegal DUI arrests in Pennsylvania is unlawful search.

Unlawful Search

Even when a police officer stops a car with reasonable suspicion, the driver maintains the right to refuse a vehicle search. Normally, the officer would need either the driver’s consent or a warrant to search the car, but some officers are able to order the driver and their passenger(s) from the vehicle on the basis of “fearing for their own safety.”

Even in that circumstance, the officer must have reasonable suspicion to continue an investigation. Again, reasonable suspicion could include the smell of alcohol or drugs or bulges in clothing.

If the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to pull you over or to conduct a search, they may have violated your constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

Attorney Steven Kellis can leverage this to have evidence against you thrown out.

You Have Options, Call Steven Kellis Today

If you were arrested for DUI in Pennsylvania, don’t assume you’re out of options and have nowhere to turn. Unfortunately, many DUI arrests are unlawful and are therefore subject to being thrown out.

The best way to have your charges dropped or reduced is by hiring an experienced DUI attorney in Pennsylvania. Steven Kellis has several decades of experience and will vigorously handle your case. Call (215) 940-1200 today to schedule a free case consultation.