An arrest for driving under the influence doesn’t always happen at an Illinois DUI checkpoint. In fact, law enforcement makes very few arrests at those roadblocks. Instead, police may pull over a driver for another reason, such as a missing headlight or a traffic violation, and notice signs of intoxication during their interactions with the driver.
If there is no other infraction, however, police must have a suspicion that you have been drinking that prompts them to pull you over. A lack of reasonable suspicion may be the crux of your DUI defense, and police will certainly have to testify to their observations.
Reasonable suspicion is not enough to make an arrest
The U.S. Constitution protects you from law enforcement pulling you over without cause. Even if you subsequently blow .08 percent blood alcohol content on a breath test, if the officer cannot show reasonable suspicion for making the traffic stop in the first place, the court may dismiss all charges that resulted from the stop, including the DUI charge. The officer who arrests you may claim to have observed any of the following behaviors before pulling you over:
- You stopped in the middle of the road without warning.
- Your car crossed the center line.
- You made an illegal turn, such as crossing left in front of oncoming traffic or making a U-turn where not permitted.
- You swerved and nearly hit another car or object.
- You were driving too slowly, too fast or erratically.
- You kept hitting the brakes for no reason.
There may be other factors the officer claimed to see that made him or her suspicious that you had been drinking. Those observations alone may be enough for reasonable suspicion, which allows an officer to pull you over to investigate. It may not be enough for probable cause, which allows an officer to place you under arrest.
Probable cause means the officer has more than a suspicion, but has actual evidence that you were driving under the influence of alcohol. This evidence may be the results of field sobriety tests or your BAC level after a blood or breath test. However, just because those test results indicate you were intoxicated while driving doesn’t mean you have no defense. Even a BAC test can be flawed, and an attorney with experience defending against DUI charges may be able to challenge the results of any field sobriety test.