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The Difference between Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion

Police officers need to have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop and arrest a person if they suspect the individual of committing a crime such as DUI. But what are the differences between the two?

Establishing Reasonable Suspicion

In regards to a DUI arrest, law enforcement officers need to establish reasonable suspicion before pulling a driver over. For example, if a motorist is driving erratically by swerving all over the road or making lane changes without using their turn signal, then that establishes reasonable suspicion of drunk driving.

Establishing Probable Cause

According to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, probable cause typically refers to the requirement in criminal law that police have proper reason to arrest someone, conduct a search, or seize property relating to an alleged criminal offense. Probable cause for arrest exists when facts and circumstances within an officer’s knowledge would result in a reasonable person to believe that the suspect has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime.

Specific facts and circumstances of a DUI include:

  • Slurred speech
  • The smell of alcohol coming from the suspect
  • Reddened eyes
  • Difficulty walking or staying still
  • Difficulty paying attention or answering the officer’s questions

Probable cause is something more than the reasonable suspicion required to justify a temporary investigative detention. Determining whether actions by law enforcement were supported by probable cause often depends on the specific facts and circumstances of your case.

Recently arrested for a DUI in Ventura County, CA? Contact our Ventura DUI attorney at The Law Offices of Robert F. Sommers and request a free consultation today.