Is Swerving Enough Cause for Reasonable Suspicion for a DWI Stop

Swerving and weaving between marked traffic lanes is one of the most common reasons given by law enforcement for stopping a potentially impaired driver. Police are well aware that this is one of the most reliable indicators that a driver is impaired. However, weaving is not always considered reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop. This means that if the weaving is insufficient, the stop is null and void, and the DWI charges should be dropped.

What Are Some Causes for Reasonable Suspicion

In order to comprehend reasonable suspicion, it is also necessary to consider what constitutes reasonable suspicion.

Law enforcement has a lot of leeway in determining what constitutes reasonable suspicion. Technically, reasonable suspicion can be established by any of the following observations:

  • Straddling the middle line
  • Failure to proceed to the green light
  • Attempting to avoid a checkpoint
  • Driving with a revoked license
  • Speeding
  • Window tint violation
  • Taking an illegal detour
  • Drifting from one lane to another, almost colliding with other vehicles or objects (swerving)
  • Driving that is extremely slow or erratic
  • Braking frequently
  • Suddenly coming to a halt in the middle of the road for no apparent reason

 

Although this is far from an exhaustive list, it is also critical to remember that each case is unique. Established reasonable suspicion can be done on a case-by-case basis. Furthermore, police officers are not permitted to stop drivers based on factors such as time and location. Police, for example, cannot stop you at 2:00 a.m. near a popular bar unless they have reasonable suspicion based on your driving behavior.

More Details on Swerving and Weaving

So, how much weaving is enough to justify stopping a vehicle? What level of swerving is “safe?”

NC courts have developed case law that leaves “sufficient” up to the facts of the case when considering 4th Amendment protection and NC law. North Carolina legal scholars use the phrase “weaving plus,” which essentially means weaving plus some other facts articulated by police to indicate impaired driving.

Courts, for example, have ruled that driving is nothing more than controlled swerving because a vehicle and its driver cannot track in a perfectly straight line. However, if weaving is combined with other factors, such as leaving an establishment that serves alcohol or driving 10-15 mph slower than the speed limit, the “weaving plus” requirement may be met.

Furthermore, courts have tended to indicate that weaving alone may be sufficient if the weaving is significant and continues for an extended period of time. So weaving semi-carelessly, crossing marked lines, and so on may suffice for a clean stop.

If you believe you were stopped for DWI without reason, a successful motion to suppress can invalidate the charges. Given that weaving is one of the most frequently cited reasons for DWI stops, it makes sense to have your DWI attorney investigate the nature of any weaving you were cited or arrested for. If you’ve been charged with DWI in Asheville or the surrounding Western North Carolina areas, contact us for more information.

What Happens if you Were Stopped for DWI

Remember that just because a law enforcement officer believes he or she has reasonable suspicion to pull you over does not mean that the officer has reasonable suspicion. If you think that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion, you and your attorney can file a motion to dismiss the charges, which may result in the dismissal of your entire case.

Furthermore, if the officer pulled you over for speeding, he or she cannot immediately launch an investigation into your drinking and drug use, and he or she cannot search your vehicle for alcohol unless the officer has probable cause.

What Is Probable Cause To Search A Vehicle In North Carolina

In North Carolina, there is no federal or state law that requires you to allow police to search your vehicle during a traffic stop. Furthermore, the fact that you refused a police search cannot be used to justify your arrest.

North Carolina law, like that of many other states, requires police officers to have probable cause before conducting a lawful vehicle search. As a result, if a law enforcement officer suspects you of criminal activity, they may have probable cause to search your vehicle.

Police officers, for example, may have probable cause to search your vehicle if they see a weapon or illegal drugs, or if they detect the odor of marijuana or alcohol inside the vehicle. If the officer did not have probable cause to search your vehicle, anything discovered during the search would not be admissible as evidence in court.

Contact us right away and we will help you with your DUI charges. Having an experienced DUI attorney on your side will make a significant difference in your case. If you’re not sure where to start, give us a call for a free consultation and we’ll answer any questions you have.

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