You went out with your friends for a fun night out after a long week. After a couple bars, you get in the car to head home. Even though you had a few drinks, you feel clearheaded and confident that you can safely drive. After a few minutes on the road, you hear a siren and see police lights in your rear-view mirror. Now, you start to fear the possibility of driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges. But did the police have a legal reason to suspect DWI?

Behaviors that provide probable cause

North Carolina law enforcement cannot stop vehicles at random to check for DWI. To legally conduct a traffic stop, the police officer must have probable cause to suspect intoxication. This can encompass a variety of driving behaviors, including:

  • Exceeding the speed limit or driving too slowly
  • Weaving within or swerving outside your lane
  • Failing to use headlights or turn signals correctly
  • Causing an accident with another motorist, pedestrian or inanimate object
  • Driving erratically
  • Failing to follow stop signs, stop lights and other road signs

Unfortunately, many behaviors that provide police with probable cause can be simple distracted driving behaviors or innocent mistakes. But, if an officer sees these behaviors, they may have the probable cause they need to conduct a full traffic stop and request DWI testing.

Exception to the rule

In North Carolina, the police have a legal right to conduct DUI checkpoints to randomly check for drunk drivers. In this case, you can be stopped and questioned about your drinking behaviors even if your driving does not show signs of impairment.

Know and protect your rights

DWI charges are serious. They can lead to high fines, jail time, license suspension and community service. If you believe the police violated your rights with an unjust traffic stop, you should speak with a capable DWI attorney. A defense attorney can capably investigate the circumstances surrounding your traffic stop and determine whether your rights were violated.