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Tampa Criminal Attorney > Blog > DUI > When Can Officers Pull Me Over on Suspicion of DUI?

When Can Officers Pull Me Over on Suspicion of DUI?


Usually, police officers can detain motorists or other persons if they have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. For many years, since the Supreme Court established this rule in 1968, reasonable suspicion was an evidence-based hunch. The Court has watered down this rule in recent years. For example, in 2014, the Supremes ruled that police officers could detain motorists for practically any reason, as long as they acted in good faith.

DUI roadblocks are the major exception to the reasonable suspicion rule, at least in DUI cases. Random checkpoints are legal in Florida, as long as the roadblock meets rigid legal requirements. A short detention period may be the biggest requirement. Checkpoints are illegal if motorists must wait in the “checkout” line more than about twenty seconds.

Because of these recent cases, which were mentioned above, courts now basically give police officers the benefit of the doubt in reasonable suspicion matters. However, the rule itself is still in place, and at some point, officers may still go too far. If a Tampa DUI lawyer invalidates the stop, the subsequent arrest is illegal, and the judge must throw the DUI out of court.

What Reasonable Suspicion Is

An officer’s tip about an erratically-driving motorist and possible DUI suspect normally constitutes reasonable suspicion. So does a moving or non-moving traffic violation, even if the infraction has nothing to do with DUI.

Officer tips are inherently somewhat reliable. Specific tips (i.e. dark SUV with a license plate ending in 45) are even more reliable. The provided information is easy to verify, and a Tampa criminal defense lawyer can call the officer who provided the tip to the witness stand and cross-examine him/her.

The Traffic Code is chock full of obscure rules and regulations, almost any of which could support a traffic stop. For example, it’s illegal to drive if a dangling air freshener, religious icon, parking pass, or anything else obscures the driver’s view. It’s also illegal to pull out of a private driveway, like a Walmart parking lot, without fully stopping.

Officers must also have reasonable suspicion of intoxication. Physical symptoms usually establish suspicion of intoxication, such as:

  • Bloodshot eyes,
  • Slurred speech,
  • Odor of alcohol, and
  • Slow reflexes.

The defendant’ statements (e.g. I only had one beer) are also admissible evidence on this point. Individually, this evidence proves little. But the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

What Reasonable Suspicion Isn’t

This list is short. Hunches based on evidence and furtive movements don’t support legal police stops in Florida.

Assume Tom leaves a bar late at night and Officer Mary follows him. Five or six blocks down the road, Tom rolls through a stop sign, and Officer Mary pulls him over. She had reasonable suspicion of a crime (the traffic stop), but she tailed Tom on a hunch. In other words, Officer Mary got the cart before the horse.

Furtive movements include nervous glances into a rearview mirror, suddenly changing direction, and appearing to hide objects in the car. Although these furtive movements cannot support a traffic stop, they could be evidence to support probable cause. But that’s the subject of a different blog.

 Reach Out to a Hard-Working Hillsborough County Attorney

A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. We routinely handle matters in Pinellas County and nearby jurisdictions.



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