Reasonable Articulable Suspicion in a DWI Case – Raleigh, Apex, Cary, NC

DWI (Driving While Impaired) cases follow a pretty standard formula. Police make thousands of car stops a year in Wake County, and each stop resulting in an arrest for DWI or drunk driving in Raleigh, Cary or Apex, NC generally follows the same pattern. Your DWI lawyer will probably follow this general approach in defending you against DWI/DUI charges in Wake County.

First, the officer must have a reason to stop the car. In many cases, the officer may observe illegal activity. For instance, if the car is speeding, that is a violation of the law, and the officer may stop the car to issue a ticket. Or the headlights have not been turned on. Or the light that is supposed to illuminate the license plate is not functioning. Or the tags have expired. These, and dozens of other infractions or criminal acts, may allow the cop to stop the car.

The officer then may issue a ticket. If the officer observes evidence of other illegal activity taking place, then the officer may conduct a further investigation, which must be brief, in order to determine whether there is additional illegal activity – in this case a DWI – taking place.

What other facts can tip the officer off that there is an ongoing DWI taking place? If he smells alcohol from the driver, or bloodshot or glassy eyes, soiled clothing, fumbling fingers, alcohol containers in the car. Or, if the officer asks the driver whether he’s been drinking, and the driver says “yes.” A combination of these factors can given the officer a reasonable, articulable suspicion (RAS) that the driver is committing an additional crime of driving while intoxicated.

A reasonable articulable suspicion is 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.” State v. Battle, 109 N.C. App 367 (1993).

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.