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What is a probable cause to arrest?

| Mar 25, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

When pulled over during a routine traffic stop, officers may use tests if they suspect you of intoxicated driving. This can include field sobriety tests, along with breath and blood analysis tests.

They can also make arrests based on probable cause. But what is probable cause? How does it manifest?

Court definition of probably cause

Cornell Law School defines probable cause. According to the legal dictionary, an officer must meet probable cause before making an arrest, receiving a warrant or conducting a search. Courts find probable cause as a reasonable belief that someone committed a crime. This specific definition applies to arrests, which is what would matter to you during a DUI stop.

Note that a warrantless search or seizure might happen under exigent circumstances. But in this case, the officer must take the arrested person to a competent authority soon after the arrest. They will then get a judicial determination of probable cause.

Potential probable causes in a DUI case

At the time of your arrest, an officer might list any number of things as a probable cause. It can include failed test results for field sobriety, breath or blood analysis. It can include bottles of alcohol in your vehicle. It may even include the smell of alcohol on your clothing or breath. Officers may keep an eye out for visible signs of intoxication as well, such as bloodshot eyes or slurred speech.

Note that having a probable cause to arrest does not mean they have evidence to pursue a case in court. But it is always best to prepare yourself for the possibility, so you are not taken off your guard.