Reasonable Suspicion Defense

Did the police have the right to stop you for drunk driving? Do not assume that the answer is yes. Do not plead guilty to DWI just because you think that you cannot fight the charges. You can. It is entirely possible that the police did not have reasonable suspicion to pull you over.

At The Law Office of L. Bryan Smith, P.C., we understand how reasonable suspicion works and we can use our knowledge of the law to fight drinking and driving charges.

Contact our firm for a free consultation with a dedicated attorney in Wilmington. We will carefully review your case to determine if your constitutional rights were violated.

What Is Reasonable Suspicion?

Reasonable articulable suspicion is the legal issue that deals with whether or not the police had the constitutional right to stop you. The landmark decision regarding this issue is the United States Supreme Court decision of Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).

In this case, the court said that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution afforded citizens the right to be free from being stopped, or "seized," by police officers unless the police have a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is taking place. The court specifically said that this must be more than a mere hunch. A police officer's ability to stop a person upon having a reasonable articulable suspicion became known as a "Terry Stop."

Previous Cases Have Further Defined the Concept of Reasonable Suspicion

There are numerous other cases that apply this right to be free from being stopped by the police without a reasonable suspicion. One such case is State v. Roberson, 163 N.C. App. 129 (2002). In this North Carolina Court of Appeals decision, Ms. Roberson was in her car at about 4:30 a.m. at a traffic light. When the light turned green, this went unnoticed by Ms. Roberson. It took her about 10 seconds before she proceeded through the intersection. This conduct was observed by a police officer, who happened to be waiting for the same light to change. He proceeded on, but when he saw that Ms. Roberson's car didn't immediately proceed through the light, he made a U-turn up the road and pulled Ms. Roberson over. Deputy Eason made no other observations about the driving of Ms. Roberson prior to stopping her vehicle.

The Court of Appeals, citing the case of State v. Wilson, said that "[A] traffic stop based on an officer's [reasonable] suspicion that a traffic violation is being committed, but which can only be verified by stopping the vehicle, such as drunk driving or driving with a revoked license, is classified as an investigatory stop, also known as a Terry Stop. Such an investigatory-type stop is justified if the totality of circumstances affords an officer reasonable grounds to believe that criminal activity may be afoot."

In Ms. Roberson's case the Court of Appeals held that the police officer did not have a reasonable suspicion to believe that she was committing a traffic violation; therefore, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial judge's decision to throw out her charge of DWI.

Using Case Law to Achieve Positive Results

Recently, our firm represented a young man who was stopped by a police officer here in New Hanover County early in the morning. He was stopped solely because he failed to proceed through a light immediately after it turned green. His DWI charge was dismissed because the District Court Judge rightly relied upon the case of State v. Roberson.

Oftentimes, this issue of reasonable suspicion and many other serious legal issues are overlooked. If you are charged with DWI, it is important to have a lawyer evaluate your case and present all the legal issues that may have an impact on your case.

Contact a Lawyer Who Understands Reasonable Suspicion

For a free consultation about the role that reasonable suspicion may play in your drunk driving case, contact our firm.