In order for a police officer to pull you over on suspicion of a DUI, they must have what is called “reasonable suspicion.” This is a less severe form of “probable cause,” but it is still legally binding. Without reasonable suspicion, one may be able to challenge the traffic stop and possible following arrest.

In North Carolina, arrests for driving under the influence are common and the police pulling people over under suspicion of a DUI is even more so. What does reasonable suspicion mean and what acts create reasonable suspicion?

What is reasonable suspicion?

Reasonable suspicion of drunk driving means that the police had a legal motive to stop you. Often, this means the car they stop is driving in an inappropriate or illegal manner that suggests impairment. At times, a police officer may pull over a driver without suspicion of a DUI, but because they observed other signs of unsafe driving, like swerving between lanes. One can swerve between lanes without being intoxicated and still have the police stop them.

Once an officer smells alcohol, sees that you are slurring your words or otherwise suspects that intoxication is at play, they will likely ask you to perform a field sobriety or breath test. Other examples of acts that create reasonable suspicion include:

  • Making illegal turns
  • Severe swerving
  • Erratic speeding
  • Hitting something or someone
  • Merging without signaling
  • Extreme fast or slow speed

Having the police pull you over on suspicion of a DUI can be frightening but remember that they need to have probable cause in order to pull you over.