Reasonable Suspicion in a DUI Stop

Under Colorado law 16-3-103(1), in order to lawfully stop and detain a driver for questioning, every police officer must have reasonable suspicion that the driver was about to commit or had already committed a crime. Such a crime may be a minor traffic infraction, however there must be reasonable suspicion that some type of violation has occurred.

Many DUI arrests in Colorado stem from stops for other reasons. For example, an officer may stop a driver for unlawfully operating a vehicle with a headlight out and, when the officer approaches the vehicle, the officer may then suspect that the driver had been drinking alcohol and question the driver regarding DUI. Some common violations that often incite DUI stops include:

  •         Failing to signal;
  •         Driving slightly over the speed limit;
  •         Not having a proper license plate or license plate bulb;
  •         Having a headlight or taillight out; and
  •         Driving too slow.

Often, an officer may claim to have had reasonable suspicion of one of these minor violations and then claim the traffic stop evolved into investigation of a DUI.

One way to defend DUI charges is to challenge the officer’s contention that there was actually reasonable suspicion for the stop. If a court finds that a cop unlawfully pulled you over without adequate suspicion that you had violated any law, your DUI case and any other cases resulting from that traffic stop may get dismissed.

Evaporation of Reasonable Suspicion

In some cases, an officer may have reasonable suspicion when he pulled you over, but then that reasonable suspicion may quickly “evaporate,” or disappear. For example, in one important Colorado court case, People v. Cerda, the officer pulled the defendant over due to a cracked windshield. The officer conceded that upon approaching the vehicle, he noticed the crack was not of the size or position to warrant a ticket. At that moment, the reasonable suspicion of the violation evaporated and the court ruled that the officer then lost the right to detain or question the suspect any further. In that case, the officer had moved forward with a DUI investigation and arrest, though the court suppressed all evidence of DUI since it did not stem from a lawful traffic stop.

An experienced DUI defense attorney will not only attack the officer’s claim of reasonable suspicion, but will also challenge whether or not the reasonable suspicion continued throughout the traffic stop or evaporated. If your constitutional rights were violated by an unlawful traffic stop and detention, there is a good chance your DUI charges may be dismissed.

Contact a DUI Attorney in Denver

There are many ways in which a Denver DUI attorney can defend your DUI case, and challenging reasonable suspicion is only one possible defense. Jay Tiftickjian is a highly experienced DUI attorney who will analyze the details of your particular case to build the best possible defense strategy for you. If you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI, please do not delay in calling the Tiftickjian Law Firm for assistance today.

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