Detroit Traffic Lawyers Discuss
Probable Cause in Drunk Driving Cases
Detroit area OWI (“DUI”) tickets usually begin with a traffic stop by a police officer. Our Detroit area traffic lawyers want you to know your rights if you are (or already were) stopped by a Detroit officer for suspected drunk driving.
This article covers when a police officer may pull you over for suspected drunk driving.
In Michigan, in any traffic stop – including OWI or DUI – a police officer must have “probable cause” to pull you over. This means that the police must have a reasonable suspicion that the vehicle or one of its occupants is in violation of the law.
Remember that the police are allowed to pull you over for one offense (such as broken taillight) and then charge you with a different offense (such as OWI) – as long as they had probable cause for the original offence. Read More on Probable Cause in Traffic Stops Here.
Additionally, if the police receive a 911 phone tip about a suspected drunk driver in Michigan – and then the officer makes the same observation – then the police typically have probable cause to conduct a valid traffic stop for suspected drunk driving.
A police officer can base his probable cause in a Drunk Driving arrest on a number of factors.
1. OWI Probable Cause – Observation
Probable cause to arrest for a drunk driving case typically begins with the police officer’s observations.
– Does the suspected drunk driver smell like intoxicants?
– Does the suspected drunk driver have red, watery or glassy eyes?
– Is the suspected drunk driver’s speech slurred?
– Is the suspected drunk driver having trouble with bodily movements?
– Has the suspected drunk driver urinated on themselves?
A skilled attorney can often challenge probable cause based on observation in an OWI stop or arrest.
2. OWI Probable Cause – Field Sobriety
After making observations, the officer will typically move on to a field sobriety test – designed to test the driver’s ability to follow directions, pay attention & exercise motor skills.
Michigan law only recognizes a very specific field sobriety test as scientifically valid. So the arresting officer must administered the field sobriety test properly to have it deemed accurate.
An experienced OWI traffic lawyer can review video of the field sobriety tests and the police report to assess whether your field sobriety test was performed correctly. If the tests were the basis of the probable cause to arrest you and they were not performed properly, a skilled lawyer may be able to get your OWI case dismissed.
3. OWI Probable Cause – Breathalyzer
The final weapon used by police to establish probable cause in a drunk driving case, is the preliminary breath test (PBT).
Most people realize that if the police suspect that a driver is intoxicated they can require them to submit to a breathalyzer test – and refusing to take a breathalyzer test will result in an automatic and immediate suspension of their driver’s license.
However, many people do not realize that Michigan courts require a police officer to have a foundation for having a driver take the breathalyzer test.
A skilled drunk driving lawyer may be able to challenge the foundation for the preliminary breath test, and have the results suppressed (“thrown out”) getting your case dismissed.
And, even if there was a proper foundation for the PBT, if the police officer is improperly trained or improperly performs the breathalyzer test, an experienced DUI / OWI lawyer may still be able to get the results of the test “thrown out”.
Our Detroit Traffic Lawyers Can Help
If you were arrested for drunk driving in Detroit or anywhere in Southeast Michigan our skilled and experienced DUI traffic lawyers are here to help. Call us today so we can look at all of the factors in your case –including the traffic stop – to ensure you have the best defense and get the best possible results in your OWI case.