Virginia DUI Stops and Reasonable Articulable Suspicion
In order for a police officer to lawfully stop you for suspicion of driving under the influence, he or she must have “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that you are driving under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants. This reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop a motorist may be based on a various observations, including equipment violations or traffic infractions. The officer may also observe other types of driving behavior that lead she or he to have a reasonable belief, based on training and experience, that you are impaired.
The officer must base his or her reasonable, articulable suspicion on specific training and experience and how that applies to the driving behavior he or she observes. Common signs of impairment that officers are trained to detect include weaving on the road, driving too slow for the road conditions, driving erratically or failing to maintain lane control, failing to stop at a stop sign or red light, reacting poorly to roadway conditions, or other traffic violations.
If you have been charged with DUI or DWI and you do not believe the law enforcement officer had reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop your vehicle, you need an experienced Virginia DUI criminal attorney who has experience navigating the Commonwealth of Virginia court system.
If a judge finds the officer did not have reasonable suspicion for pulling you over, this may result in suppression of any evidence gathered at the scene. As a result of this suppression of evidence, the judge may dismiss your case. DUI in Virginia is a serious crime that can result in jail time, fines and a criminal record, even for the first offense. The potential jail time, fines and the seriousness of the charge increases with the amount of alcohol shown to be in your bloodstream, the nature of the alleged DUI driving behavior and whether it is a first, second or subsequent offense.
“Reasonable articulable suspicion” is a legal standard requiring the law enforcement officer to give rationale for their detention of you and your vehicle based on “specific and articulable facts” and “taken together with rational in inferences from those facts.”
Some helpful definitions are:
- Reasonable: in other words, “based on sound judgment”
- Articulable: in other words, “a person can explain his/her reason for the suspicion in words that most people can understand, notably the fact finder”
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, breath or blood tests determine your BAC (blood alcohol content). The legally allowable BAC varies per age and type of driver. For example, for a person 21 years or older, if his/her blood or breath test indicates a BAC of .08% or higher, the law considers that person to be in violation of one of the subsections of Section 18.2-266 of the Code of Virginia. For a person under the age of 21, the BAC required for an inference of intoxication is lowered to .02% and for the driver of a commercial vehicle the BAC is .04%.
In addition, when you obtained your Virginia driver’s license as a Virginia resident, or drove upon the highways of the Commonwealth of Virginia as an out-of-state driver, you consented to the taking of your blood or breath if arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is known as “implied consent.” Implied consent is triggered in many, but not all, DUI cases and if you have questions about how the implied consent law in Virginia may impact your case, ask a Virginia DUI attorney right away.
A skilled Virginia criminal DUI lawyer can help outline your strategy if you have been arrested for this charge. It is important to act fast to preserve crucial evidence for your case and prepare the best possible defense. Call our firm today for a free consultation.