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Lack of probable cause as a criminal defense

On Behalf of | Apr 26, 2024 | Criminal Defense

If a South Dakota police officer pulls you over in a traffic stop and asks you to exit your vehicle, it’s likely that you’re suspected of intoxication. You must comply with an officer’s instruction to step out of your vehicle. From that moment on, there are several additional requests you are free to decline. To arrest you, police must have probable cause. If it does not exist, you can use that fact as part of your criminal defense strategy.

You do not have to take a roadside breath test during a traffic stop. If the deputy asks you to take a field sobriety test, you may decline. Police use preliminary alcohol screening tests like these to establish probable cause for a drunk driving arrest.

Building a strong criminal defense is the key to positive outcome

In addition to roadside alcohol screening tests, a police officer may establish probable cause through any of the means included in the following list:

  • Officer sees open container of alcohol inside vehicle
  • Driver stumbles when trying to walk
  • Slurred speech
  • Aroma of alcohol in vehicle or on driver
  • Witnessing driver consuming alcohol while driving

If any of these elements exist while a South Dakota police officer has you detained in a traffic stop, the officer can arrest you for suspected DUI. The need for criminal defense support becomes a top priority in such circumstances.

What is the legal definition of probable cause?

To make a traffic stop, a police officer must have a reasonable suspicion that you have committed a traffic violation or a crime. For example, police might pull you over if you are driving at night without headlights. If an officer witnesses your vehicle veering over the yellow line, there’s reason to believe you might be impaired. A traffic stop would be legitimate in such cases.

Probable cause, on the other hand, is a preponderance of evidence that demonstrates a likelihood that you have committed a crime. Reasonable suspicion is just that — a reason to suspect. Probable cause is evidence that a crime has occurred.

What can you do if there is no established probable cause?

There are often several criminal defense options available to those facing DUI or other charges in South Dakota. When there is lack of probable cause to make an arrest, an accused individual can file a motion to request a case dismissal. To ensure that your motion contains all the required information, it’s best to act alongside experienced legal support throughout the process.