Though it may seem like otherwise, police and sheriff’s deputies in Spokane do not have unlimited power to arrest whomever they choose. There are laws that restrain police powers, including the probable cause requirement. Before that, the police must have a reasonable suspicion that you are committing DUI or another crime before they can conduct a traffic stop.
Before pulling over your vehicle, a police officer must first have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has taken place or is in progress inside the vehicle, such as DUI. Random traffic stops are prohibited. Evidence that backs an officer’s reasonable suspicion of DUI can include:
- Drifting over the center line or lane markers
- Speeding or sudden shifts in speed
- Nearly striking parked vehicles
- Frequent braking
In addition, things unrelated to possible impaired driving, such as a broken tail light, has been called a legally permitted pretext for a traffic stop.
Having a reasonable suspicion necessary to pull you over is only the beginning. It is not, in itself, enough evidence to arrest you on suspicion of drinking and driving. Before that can happen, the officer is supposed to establish probable cause that you have committed DUI. Typically, the officer will have you perform a breath test, field sobriety test, or both.
Despite the rules of police work, officers do not always respect people’s rights. In the moment, there is little you can do to question if the officer who initiated your traffic stop had enough evidence to do so, or if there was probable cause to arrest you. You probably will have to wait until later, when you have been charged with DUI, to assert your rights. For example, depending on what happened during your police stop, your attorney may be able to get some or all of the evidence thrown out due to illegal police procedure.