"Reasonable articulable suspicion" is a common factor in DUI, DWI, and drunk driving cases in Fairfax County.
What constitutes reasonable articulable suspicion in a Fairfax traffic stop?
In Virginia and throughout the United States, a police officer cannot simply pull over your car or truck just because they want to. In order to legally stop your vehicle, a Fairfax County law enforcement officer must have a "reasonable articulable suspicion" that you are violating a law or traffic regulation before they decide to activate their lights to pull a driver over.
Any State Trooper or police officer that stops your vehicle without reasonable articulable suspicion has violated your constitutional rights. The officer’s unjustified action in pulling you over may have a huge impact on your Fairfax County DUI case if you are arrested. Carlos Wall and Alex Gordon, our Fairfax DUI attorneys, could have any evidence gathered against you during the officer’s DUI investigation suppressed and kept out of trial. If the judge agrees the officer did not have reasonable articulable suspicion to stop the car, your Fairfax DUI charges may even be dismissed.
An explanation of Reasonable Articulable Suspicion in Fairfax County
You may have heard the term “Probable Cause." Probable cause is the high standard that a law enforcement officer must have before they can conduct a search, obtain an search warrant, or arrest a suspect for a crime. Reasonable articulable suspicion is a lower standard than probable cause.
Reasonable articulable suspicion is defined as the belief by a reasonable person that another person violated a law or regulation in Virginia. Unfortunately there is not always a clear distinction of what a reasonable person would consider to be evidence of a crime. This “reasonable articulable suspicion” standard is subjective in the eye of both the police officer and the judge that will be deciding your case. When challenged in court by a Fairfax DUI lawyer, the arresting police officer or State Troper must “articulate” or tell the judge the facts that they believed indicate a driver was committing a violation of law when their vehicle was stopped.
Virginia law enforcement officers do not have do not have to wait for a driver to commit a serious violation of law in order to perform a traffic stop. All they need is the ability to convince a judge that they had a “reasonable articulable suspicion” of any violation of law or that your driving behavior indicated that you may be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If your lawyer challenges the stop because the officer didn't properly pull you over and the judge agrees that you were pulled over in violation of your rights, your Fairfax DUI case will be dismissed. Lawyers Alex Gordon and Carlos Wall have helped hundreds of clients charged with DUI in Fairfax County. We often challenge the lack of reasonable articulable suspicion when the facts of our clients DUI stop and arrest allow and support a Motion to Suppress evidence.
Sometimes when our clients are trying to obtain a beneficial result in court through negotiation, we use the threat of a successful Motion to Suppress as leverage to achieve a plea agreement on behalf of the client. Other times, when the prosecution insists on presenting the case to the judge, we raise these issues successfully and the case may be dismissed.
Some of the common factors that officers use as "reasonable articulable suspicion" for Fairfax DUI arrests include the following:
Inability to Stay in your Lane of Traffic or Weaving within a Lane
Using a Telephone or Handheld Device while Driving
Headlights off or defecting lighting on the car.
Traveling at a Slower Speed than the Speed Limit
Running a Stop Light or Sign.
Expiration of License Plates or Inspections
Investigating an Accident
Improper use of Turn Signal or Changing Lanes
Littering or Noise Violations.
Improper Tint on Windows