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When can police perform a DUI stop in Virginia?

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer across Virginia. People have cook-outs, go to the park, go camping or go to their favorite beach or swimming pool. For many, the three-day weekend is a welcome respite from the daily grind. And, at many of these celebrations, beer, wine and liquor will be served. As a result, Virginia police will be on the lookout for drunk drivers. If a person is pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, they may wonder whether the traffic stop was lawful, especially if they are sober.

Police are permitted to pull someone over if they have reasonable suspicion that a person has done something illegal, such as drunk driving. Some examples of reasons why police might have reasonable suspicion that a person is driving drunk is if the driver is swerving between lanes, driving slow or erratically, almost crashing into things on the side of the road or frequently stepping on the brakes of their vehicle.

Reasonable suspicion allows a police officer to lawfully detain a driver temporarily. However, in order to arrest a person, a police officer must have probable cause that the person committed a crime. To establish probable cause, the police must have sufficient evidence to believe a person has most likely done something illegal. In comparison, reasonable suspicion only requires an indication that a person might have done something illegal. If a driver meets the standard of probable cause for a DUI, an officer might place a motorist under arrest if the motorist failed a breath test or failed a field sobriety test.

The difference between reasonable suspicion and probable cause is significant. Reasonable suspicion can temporarily allow the police to perform a DUI stop, but without probable cause the police cannot arrest the driver or detain the driver any further. Those who want more information on this topic are encouraged to research the issue and seek help when necessary.

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Sevila, Saunders, Huddleston & White
30 North King Street
Leesburg, VA 20176

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