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Reasonable suspicion and probable cause: what's the difference?

If you are facing charges for drunk driving in Georgia, you could be facing penalties that may alter the course of your life. Even a first-time offense can result in penalties that may include expensive fines, loss of driving privileges and much more. It is in your interests to fight back through a strong and thoughtful DUI defense strategy. 

One of the most important elements of a DUI defense is a careful examination of the factors that led to the initial traffic stop and arrest. Officers must have a valid reason, called reasonable suspicion, to stop a driver, and law enforcement must have probable cause to arrest a driver. You may benefit from understanding more about these terms and how they may affect your case. 

Important factors for your defense

Reasonable suspicion is what allows a police officer to pull over a driver for suspected intoxicated operation of a vehicle. Typically, this is when a law enforcement officer notices certain types of behavior, including: 

  • Driving erratically
  • Slowing down and speeding up for no apparent reason
  • Braking often or swerving in the lane

These and other types of behavior could indicate that a driver may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Police do have a certain amount of authority to determine what types of action may constitute as suspicious and grounds for a DUI traffic stop. Probable cause is what an officer must have in order to make a drunk driving arrest. This simply means there must be enough evidence to indicate a driver broke the law.

If there was no valid reason for your traffic stop or officers lacked sufficient evidence for your arrest, you may be able to challenge the case against you. A violation of your rights or improper procedure could greatly undermine the prosecution's case. It is smart to work with an attorney who understands the law and knows how to properly evaluate your case. 

Immediate action is prudent

When it is your personal freedom at stake and you are facing the chance of serious consequences, it is in your interests to take immediate action to start working on your defense strategy. A complete evaluation of your case may reveal that you have grounds to challenge the reason why a police officer pulled you over or placed you under arrest. With the right defense, it is possible to confront DUI charges and preserve your long-term interests.

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