What is probable cause and how can it help you to beat a DUI or DWI in Austin, Texas? In brief, before a police officer can stop you while you are driving, she or he must have what is known as “probable cause” for the stop. This comes from the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees a person the right “against unreasonable searches and seizures,” and guarantees that “no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause.” How is probable cause defined? In short, there is no strict, hard-and-fast definition of probable cause within the Fourth Amendment. Instead, court cases have helped to shape our understanding of probable cause in Texas and throughout the country. Given that a police officer must have probable cause to stop you when you are driving, if you are charged with a DWI, you may be able to argue that there was no probable cause, or apparent reason, for the traffic stop.
Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause in Austin, TX
How are members of the Austin Police Department supposed to think about probable cause? Generally speaking, to have probable cause to stop and search a car and its driver, a law enforcement officer needs to have a reasonable suspicion that the driver has violated a law in order to make the stop in the first place, followed by probable cause for the search. The key to a lawful traffic stop is reasonableness and how a reasonable police officer in the situation would interpret the facts. Typically, the court is not concerned with the police officer’s personal motives for making a traffic stop, but instead whether it was based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause.
If a reasonable police officer would not have stopped the car, then the stop may be overturned, and the DWI arrest also may be dropped.
What Kind of Evidence is Sufficient to Produce Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause?
You might be wondering: what kind of evidence is considered sufficient for a police officer to have reasonable suspicion and probable cause? And, on the flip side, what would not be sufficient for a stop, allowing the individual facing a DWI to argue that the stop was unlawful?
In some cases, police officers might suggest that weaving within your own traffic lane, which is not illegal, was the reason they decided to stop your car. How about if a police officer says he saw you leaving a restaurant where most people order several drinks with dinner or at a local bar that is known for serving strong drinks? Or, perhaps, a police officer might say that he watched you drinking a beer in a parking lot before you got into your car and drove off. The police officer also might say that he observed you buying alcohol inside a convenience store, and he had reason to believe that you were drinking in the car. Or, were you simply out driving at a time after most of the bars close for the night?
DWI Attorney in Austin
Whatever reason the law enforcement official gives for having reasonable suspicion and probable cause, with the help of a DWI defense attorney in Austin, TX, you can argue that the police officer did not have sufficient evidence to make a stop. If you can successfully show that there was insufficient evidence for the stop, then you may be able to have the charges against you dropped. To be clear, if there was no probable cause, the DUI/DWI charge may be invalidated.