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A DUI arrest must start with reasonable suspicion

When do you think a DUI arrest really begins? Is it with the traffic stop? Or does it start with the field sobriety tests or the breath test?

These are all key components, but the reality is that it starts with reasonable suspicion. The officer believes that the driver in question has broken the law and is intoxicated behind the wheel.

After the officer has reason to believe this is the case, only then do the lights come on. Only then is the breath test given out. These other steps lead to the arrest, but the process started long before that, before the driver even realized he or she was about to be pulled over.

Reasonable suspicion comes from many sources. The officer could see a driver swerving all over the road. The officer could arrive at a crash site and smell alcohol in one of the cars. The officer could simply stop the driver for an unrelated reason -- like speeding or having a taillight out -- and then notice that the driver is acting drunk when they speak to each other.

This idea of reasonable suspicion is key for those who are accused, though, because stops made without it are often unlawful. An officer cannot simply pick you at random and pull you over to see if you are intoxicated. He or he must first have a valid reason to pull you over.

If the officer did not have reason to make the initial stop, that could mean it was illegal and all evidence gathered during the stop -- like the results of your breath test -- must be thrown out. Make sure you know what legal options you have.

Source: FindLaw, "What is Reasonable Suspicion for a DUI Stop?," accessed March 13, 2018

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