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Reasonable Articulable Suspicion and DUI

If you, or a loved one, are facing charges of driving under the influence (DUI), you must take the allegations seriously and immediately seek the help of an experienced Maryland DUI attorney. DUI convictions can result in the possibility of severe civil and criminal penalties, including driver’s license suspension, fines, and jail time. An experienced and skilled lawyer can evaluate your case and create a defense based on your individual circumstances. An attorney who has experience safeguarding the rights of people accused of DUI will immediately investigate the facts surrounding your arrest, including the possibility of whether the officer or officers who stopped you on suspicion of DUI met the burden required for “reasonable articulable suspicion.”

What Is Reasonable Articulable Suspicion in Maryland?

As is the case with all states, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution applies to traffic stops in the state of Maryland. That amendment is the basis for the legal standard of “reasonable articulable suspicion,” which essentially means that a police officer must witness or have evidence of a legal violation to establish the basis for stopping a vehicle and detaining the driver and occupants.

As it relates to DUI, to legally stop a vehicle and conduct a further investigation the police officer must have what is called “reasonable articulable suspicion.” Please see McCain v. State, 194 Md. App. 252 (2010).

Maryland courts and the Supreme Court of the United States have ruled that the evidentiary standard for reasonable articulable suspicion is significantly less than the legal standard required for “probable cause.” Probable cause is required for warrants to be issued and for arrests to be made in most criminal cases.

Was the DUI Stop Reasonable?

The officer must base a DUI stop on the totality of the circumstances that she or he has available to her or him at the time the allege violation occurred. This typically means that a traffic or other legal violation — such as speeding, making an improper lane change, running a stop sign, or some other infraction – has occurred.

The officer cannot rely on a “hunch” or “gut-feeling,” but must be able to articulate with specificity a reasonable basis for her or his suspicion. The court will evaluate whether the threshold required for reasonable suspicion has been met by mulling the following question:

Would a reasonable person, or in this case a reasonable police officer, conclude that criminal activity is afoot?

Finding Defects in the State’s Case

Depending on your case, a deft Maryland defense lawyer has several defenses and strategies that can be used and refined to develop a defense as it relates to reasonable suspicion. The following are some of the most common arguments that can be used to defend you against an invalid stop.

  • Speeding – The officer was using faulty equipment when she or he “clocked” you for speeding.
  • Brake lights – If the majority of your vehicle’s break lights were functioning, your attorney can argue the stop was not sound because your vehicle had adequate brake light warning.
  • Turn signal violation – If no other vehicle was affected by the failure to use a turn signal, it can be argued that the stop was not valid.
  • Almost caused an accident – The officer may state that you “almost caused an accident,” but this accusation must be accompanied with evidence of negligent or reckless driving or behavior, not simply the officer’s opinion.

These are just a few of the possible defenses your DUI attorney can employ to defend you against unlawful stops. Keep in mind that not all of these strategies may fit the circumstances of your case.

What About Probable Cause?

Do not confuse reasonable articulable suspicion with probable cause, which is the standard the officer must meet if he or she requests that you to take a breath test. For example, it is common for a police officer to ask a driver if they have been drinking. If you answer yes, the officer may have established probable cause to administer a Breathalyzer or field sobriety tests.

If you state that you were not drinking, then the officer must find some other evidence of intoxication to claim probable cause. That isn’t difficult for most law enforcement officers to do. Other forms of probable cause include seeing an open container of alcohol in your vehicle or detecting the scent of alcohol on your breath or clothes and/or bloodshot eyes and slurred speech.

Even if the officer successfully determines that there is probable cause to believe that you have been drinking, this does not give him or her the right to search the trunk of your vehicle unless the officer has reason to believe it may contain contraband or some other evidence of criminal activity.

Experience Counts In Fighting DUIs In MD

Kush Arora has built a reputation for protecting the rights of individuals accused of DUI and DWI offenses through Maryland. He not only has the experience needed to provide you a solid criminal defense, but he and his associates also possess training in state-of-the-art DUI prosecution tools and various alcohol- and drug-related criminal and civil procedures. Contact his Maryland law office for a free initial evaluation of your case and to discuss how he can help you develop a successful strategy to protect your rights and your reputation.