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What is probable cause for a DUI stop in Florida?

You're driving home along a Florida highway after attending a going-away party for a colleague and you see the red light in the mirror. Yes, you've had a bit to drink but not so much that you think you're legally drunk.

So can you be pulled over?

The officer must have had reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. An officer with reasonable suspicion can briefly detain someone to conduct a short investigation. If that investigation leads to the belief that a driver has been drinking, the officer can conduct a Breathalyzer or a field sobriety test.

So just what qualifies as reasonable suspicion? It's when an officer observes any of the following, but be aware there are additional qualifications:

  • Drifting between lanes
  • Straddling the center line
  • Making an illegal turn
  • Driving slowly or erratically
  • Braking frequently
  • Nearly colliding with cars or objects
  • Stopping for no clear reason

Reasonable suspicion can occur even if an officer didn't observe the person driving. An officer can conduct a field sobriety test in the instance, for example, of a car accident or if a driver is found unconscious while sitting in the driver's seat of a parked car.

Reasonable suspicion allows an officer to pull over a driver, but the tougher standard of probable cause must be present to make an arrest. With probable cause, the officers believe they have sufficient evidence to believe a crime – in this case driving under the influence – has been committed.

There is a small distinction between reasonable suspicion and probable cause, but it's important.

If you are arrested on DUI charges, an attorney can help you review your traffic stop and help build your defense.

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