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Reasonable Suspicion for a DWI Charge: Is Swerving Enough?

by Oct 25, 2022Criminal Defense Attorney, DWI / DUI, Kevin Sieben

Here’s a situation our Minnesota DWI lawyers frequently encounter: a driver is stopped on suspicion of DWI. When they ask the law enforcement officer why they were pulled over, they learn that they have been accused of swerving while driving. If they are subsequently arrested and charged with a DWI, can they argue that the cops didn’t have reasonable cause to pull them over in the first place? 

When “Suspicious Driving” Leads to A DWI Arrest

When a driver is pulled over for acting suspiciously, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are breaking any traffic laws. For example, you could be stopped for driving slowly on a side street. This isn’t against the law, but it could draw the attention of law enforcement. They may feel it is appropriate to stop you and ask you questions about your behavior. This isn’t necessarily an appropriate reason to pull you over, so your Minnesota DWI/DUI lawyer may be able to challenge the claim of probable cause if the traffic stop ends in an arrest. However, if you are breaking a driving law at the time of the traffic stop, the subsequent arrest will likely be considered legally acceptable. 

Defining Probable Cause

You may be wondering: what does suspicion of DWI actually consist of? Police officers are given quite a bit of freedom when determining whether a citizen should be detained or arrested for DWI. They are required to have probable cause to believe a crime has been or is being committed, but the term is largely left up to interpretation. Of course, the amount of evidence an officer has may affect whether the accusation holds up in court, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to go through the inconvenience of being arrested and charged with a DWI. 

So, can you be arrested for suspicion of DWI? Absolutely. You do not need to fail a breathalyzer before you are arrested for drunk driving. In fact, a police officer isn’t required to conduct any tests before concluding that they have probable cause. And since blood must be drawn to identify the presence of certain drugs in the body, a driver who is suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana or another illegal drug may be arrested because of the way they were driving (swerving, acting suspiciously, etc.) or their physical appearance, without ever being subjected to a field sobriety test or breathalyzer test

Minnesota DWI/DUI Attorneys Fighting Against Unlawful Stops

A DWI is a serious charge, and unfortunately some defendants face these charges unfairly. If you were stopped for “suspicious driving” and ended up with a criminal charge, contact a criminal defense lawyer in Minnesota as soon as possible. The attorneys at Sieben Edmunds Miller have years of experience fighting for our clients’ rights. We will do everything possible to ensure you don’t receive an unfair punishment. Contact our team today to get started on your defense.

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