DUI and Lack of Probable Cause
Most automobile crashes are avoidable, and are the result of driver negligence or neglect. One of the leading causes of car accidents is drunk driving. Despite its known dangers, people continue to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Drunk driving accidents can lead to substantial financial losses, and injury victims have the right to pursue compensation for economic and non-economic damages related to a crash. However, not all DUI crashes involve an arrest, and some DUI arrests lack probable cause. Here, lawyers from Foley Law Firm, which serves Scranton, Stroudsburg, and Wilkes-Barre, PA, explain how probable cause impacts DUI charges and car accident liability.
What Is “Probable Cause”?
If a police officer pulls over a driver for suspicion of DUI, the law states that they must have probable cause to do so. Examples of probable cause include:
- Swerving, weaving, or drifting out of the correct lane
- Driving excessively above or below the speed limit, or erratically changing speeds
- Driving at night without headlights
- Irresponsible driving (i.e. tailgating, unsafe lane changes, running through a red light or stop sign, etc.)
If a police officer has already pulled a driver over for a different traffic infraction and they decide to investigate for a DUI, they must also have probable cause. Police officers should not perform a DUI investigation (which typically involves a field sobriety test and breathalyzer test) without probable cause. Examples of probable cause during a traffic stop include:
- Smelling alcohol on the driver’s breath
- Noticing that the driver’s eyes appear red or glossy
- Slurred speech
- Admission of drug or alcohol use
- Open container of alcohol in the vehicle
DUI Defense and Lack of Probable Cause
Lack of probable cause is one of the most common DUI defense strategies. A knowledgeable DUI defense attorney may get evidence suppressed if it is proven that the police officer lacked probable cause to pull a driver over, or lacked probable cause to perform a DUI investigation.
If an officer lacked probable cause to pull a driver over, any evidence collected during the traffic stop would be suppressed, and if an officer lacked probable cause to perform a DUI investigation, any evidence collected during the investigation would be suppressed. Without evidence, it is likely that DUI charges would be dismissed.
Can Someone Be Liable for a Car Accident if DUI Charges Lack Probable Cause?
Drivers and accident victims often wonder if a driver can be held liable for a suspected drunk driving accident if DUI charges are dismissed due to lack of probable cause. Criminal charges are separate from a civil lawsuit. Although a driver can be found at-fault for a crash if they are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they can also be held liable without DUI charges. As long as there is enough evidence to show that a driver was reckless or negligent, and that their actions caused the accident, it’s irrelevant if they are formally arrested or convicted of DUI.
Contact Foley Law Firm
Drunk driving accidents often cause substantial physical, emotional, and financial damages. If you have been injured in a crash involving drunk driving, lawyers at Foley Law Firm can help you pursue compensation for related losses. To discuss your case with our legal team, send us a message online, or call (570) 342-8194.