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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > DUI > When Can Officers Pull Me Over For DUI?

When Can Officers Pull Me Over For DUI?


To detain suspects, according to a 1968 Supreme Court ruling, prosecutors must prove that officers had  reasonable suspicion. Over the past ten years, the Supremes have watered down this rule and given police officers more leeway in this area. So, Loudoun County judges now often rule in favor of police officers in close cases. Nevertheless, the rule itself, which is examined below, remains in effect.

If the stop was unlawful, a Virginia DUI defense lawyer can use the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine to invalidate the arrest and exclude any evidence officers obtained during that law enforcement contact. This exclusion applies to chemical test results and field sobriety test results. Without such evidence, the state usually cannot move forward with the case.

The Stop

Basically, reasonable suspicion is an evidence-based hunch that the suspect may be involved in criminal activity. Generally, police officers pull over defendants for traffic violations. This approach removes the “hunch” factor altogether and makes it much more likely that the stop will hold up in court.

Most drivers cannot travel more than a few miles, or even a few blocks, without breaking a traffic law. Common violations include speeding and running a red light. These violations could be very ticky tack. Drivers who go 31mph in a 30mph zone are speeding. Drivers who don’t completely exit the intersection before the light turns red run that light.

Some uncommon violations that our Leesburg criminal defense lawyers frequently deal with include failure to stop when exiting a private driveway and an object that obscures the driver’s vision. Most people don’t stop when they pull out of a Walmart parking lot. An item like a crucifix or a dangling air freshener technically obscures the driver’s vision.

If police officers write tickets for these violations, the evidence might not hold up in court. For example, 1mph is usually within a RADAR gun’s margin of error. However, these situations clearly constitute reasonable suspicion, since the burden of proof is lower.

In contrast, furtive movements don’t constitute reasonable suspicion as a matter of law. Furtive gestures include things like nervous glances into the rear view mirror or sudden movements which look like the driver is trying to hide something.

A hunch based on evidence, as opposed to an evidence-based hunch, is in a gray area. If Officer Smith sees Tim leave a bar late at night, follows Tim until he goes 31mph in a 30mph zone, and pulls him over, a Leesburg criminal defense lawyer might be able to get the case thrown out of court.

The Investigation

Frequently, officers rely on physical symptoms to justify a “step out of the car, please” DUI investigation. These symptoms include:

  • Bloodshot eyes,
  • Odor of alcohol,
  • Unsteady balance, and
  • Slurred speech.

These symptoms don’t prove intoxication by any stretch. For example, lots of things other than intoxication, like fatigue and smoking, could cause bloodshot eyes. However, this evidence is strong enough to establish reasonable suspicion.

Furthermore, many drivers admit they were drinking, even though they have a Fifth Amendment right to remain silent at this point.

Finally, for many years, officers used the “I smelled marijuana” line to justify DUI-drug investigations. In 2020, the legislature passed a law forbidding this practice, since recreational marijuana is now partially legal in Virginia. This provision went into effect in March 2021.

Contact a Hard-Working Loudoun County Lawyer

There’s a big difference between an arrest and a conviction in criminal law. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Leesburg, contact Simms Showers, LLP, Attorneys at Law. Convenient payment plans are available.



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