Were there valid grounds for your DUI traffic stop?

Perhaps you were driving home from a nice dinner out with friends, or maybe you were on your way home from a sporting event when you saw the flashing lights in your rearview mirror. Next thing you know, you are facing DUI charges and penalties that can change the course of your life. This may feel like it came out of nowhere, and you may not be sure why an officer pulled you over in the first place. 

Police have to have specific reasons to pull a person over. There are laws that demand there be reasonable suspicion to stop a driver, which means that a traffic stop is not legal unless there is a clear reason to believe that a crime is taking place or there is imminent danger. Without valid grounds for the initial stop, your entire DUI case may be invalid. 

What counts as reasonable suspicion?

To initiate a DUI traffic stop, a South Carolina officer must observe certain behaviors that could indicate an intoxicated driver. Law enforcement has a certain amount of leeway in these matters, having the authority to objectively observe a situation and determine whether a traffic stop is appropriate. Some of the most common behaviors that can give an officer reasonable suspicion for a suspected DUI traffic stop include:

  • A driver who is straddling the center line while driving down the road
  • A car swerving from one lane to the next, or a driver who is obviously struggling to maintain his or her lane
  • Making illegal turns and doing other things that violate traffic laws
  • Driving at erratic speeds or driving extremely slowly
  • Stopping in the road or slowing down for no reason
  • Almost hitting vehicles parked on the side of the road or other stationary objects

Any of these things could indicate that a person is having trouble driving because he or she is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This gives an officer a valid reason to stop the driver, talk to him or her, and potentially initiate sobriety tests. 

A violation of your personal rights

If you believe that the officer did not have a reason to pull you over or that you experienced a violation of your personal rights in any way, you do not have to sit by silently. You can fight back and defend yourself, confronting the case against you and presenting evidence for your defense. As this can be a complex process, you may find it helpful to discuss this possibility with an experienced defense attorney.