Reasonable Suspicion for a DUI/DWI Charge: Is Swerving Enough?

  1. Criminal Disputes
  2. DWI/DUI
  3. Reasonable Suspicion for a DUI/DWI Charge: Is Swerving Enough?
being pulled over by police cops

Being charged with a DUI/DWI offense (“Driving Under the Influence/Driving While Intoxicated) is a stressful event for anyone should you find yourself in that situation. You could have your license revoked, lose your job, and be shamed by the community. However, it is possible that if the officer who pulled you over did not have reasonable suspicion to stop you, the case against you may be dismissed.

When pulling you over, North Carolina law requires that the stop must be based on specific and articulable facts, as well as the rational inferences from those facts, as viewed through the eyes of a “reasonable, cautious officer, guided by his experience and training.” The only requirement is a minimal level of objective justification, meaning something more than an unparticularized suspicion or hunch.

One of the most common reasons an officer pulls anyone over for potentially driving intoxicated is because that individual swerves while driving.  However, weaving within your lane, standing alone, is actually insufficient to support a reasonable suspicion that you were driving under the influence of alcohol. North Carolina courts have held that an officer’s observation of a single instance of weaving within the lane is not enough of a justification to establish the reasonable suspicion required to pull over an individual.

In order for the weaving to warrant reasonable suspicion sufficient to lawfully pull you over, the weaving or swerving must be in conjunction with other factors indicating that the individual is inebriated. Multiple cases have illustrated this; in a North Carolina Appellate Court case, the court held that the officer had a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” to believe that defendant was committing an implied consent offense based on the facts that defendant’s car was weaving combined with the unusual hour and the location, in an area near bars. Similarly, courts have denied a motion to suppress evidence when the defendant’s vehicle was weaving so erratically within the travel lane, described as “a ball bouncing in a small room,” that the drivers of  other cars in the oncoming lanes were forced take evasive maneuvers to avoid the intoxicated individual’s car. A minor swerve or slight straying from the road is insufficient to justify a police officer stop without something more. If you have been charged with a DUI/DWI, it is possible that the stop unlawfully violated your rights. If so, a good lawyer could potentially have your charges dismissed.

King Law Offices is a full-service law firm with an outstanding team of professionals who work diligently, creatively, and compassionately on behalf of our clients each day. If you have pending charges concerning a DUI/DWI, contact King Law at 888-748-KING (5464) for a consultation. We have offices located across western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina. We are here to serve you and to guide you as we navigate this journey together.

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