What Constitutes Reasonable Articulable Suspicion to Initiate a DWI Stop?

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“Reasonable articulable suspicion” is the standard that an officer must meet in order to stop a vehicle. A officer must have a “reasonable articulable suspicion” that criminal activity is taking place. In this case, that a person is driving while impaired (DWI).

In State v. Battle, the North Carolina Court of Appeals wrote said that a reasonable articulable suspicion is a “brief investigatory stop,”

A police officer may conduct a brief investigatory stop of a vehicle, even though there is no probable cause for the stop, when justified by specific, articulable facts which would lead a police officer reasonably to conclude in light of his experience that criminal activity may be afoot… These facts and inferences must show a substantial possibility that criminal conduct has occurred, is occurring or is about to occur.

A reasonable articulable suspicion requires that the police officer have more than a hunch that something is going on. The facts upon which the officer makes his stop must be specific and he must be able to articulate those in a way that others can understand. For instance, he can’t just say “I just felt that the defendant was driving drunk” or “My gut told me that the defendant was driving drunk.” He must explain why he had the suspicion, and what gave rise to them.

In addition, these observations must be viewed in the context of the officer’s overall experience. An officer with 39 years experience is an officer who might be able to evaluate a situation much more easily than a rookie cop who can’t rely upon such extensive experience. As a consequence, a rookie cop will probably need to know many more articulable facts.