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Common Reasons for a DWI Stop

When can the police pull you over?

Under Minnesota and U.S. law, a police officer cannot stop you for an arbitrary reason.  Often, the police officer needs “reasonable suspicion” to pull you over.  Reasonable suspicion basically means that the police officer has some articulable reason to suspect criminal activity.  It doesn’t mean that there is definitely criminal activity, just that some indicators exist that suggest criminal activity might be happening.  What does this mean for you?  Well, if you want to avoid being pulled over by the police, it’s best to make sure that you don’t provide any reasonable suspicion that a crime, such as a DWI, has occurred.

What constitutes a basis for a DWI stop?

Minnesota police officers look for a number of indicators to determine whether they can stop someone to investigate whether the driver has been drinking alcohol.  Here are the most common indicators:

Traffic Violations

The most common basis for a DWI stop is a traffic violation.  Simply failing to signal a turn or having an equipment violation gives the police officer a reason to pull you over and issue a ticket.  Once the officer is at your car, they will usually ask if you’ve been drinking alcohol and look for signs that you’re intoxicated, such as red eyes, slurred speech, and breath that smells like alcohol.   In addition, many officers will ask if you’ve been drinking.  If you mention that you have, the officer now has a basis to conduct further investigation into whether you are intoxicated.

Irregular but Legal Driving

Even if you don’t commit a traffic violation, some irregular activity can still give the officer reasonable suspicion to pull you over for a DWI.  These include excessive acceleration, swerving within your lane, jerky driving, and other similar behavior.  Although many of these actions can be explained by conditions, such as high wind or poor visibility, an officer might claim that they indicate impaired driving due to alcohol.  If conditions are difficult, make sure to drive as carefully as possible to avoid giving any appearance that you might be intoxicated.

Suspended or Revoked License

Minnesota police officers have computers in their cars that can check your license status.  If you are driving without a valid license, an officer can run your plates and get a picture of what you look like.  If the officer matches the picture to the driver, they can pull you over for driving without a valid license.  Although you’ll get in trouble for driving without a valid license, the stop also allows the officer to look for indications that you’ve been drinking.  If you have a license restricting any alcohol consumption, this stop could lead to a lot of trouble for you.

Report of Concerned Citizen

Many Minnesota bars, liquor stores, and other establishments want to curb the number of drunk drivers on the road.  So, if you appear highly intoxicated, sometimes someone at an establishment will call the police to let them know that you may be a drunk driver.  If a worker at the bar suggests you take a cab or find alternate arrangements to get home, it’s usually best to listen to their advice and not take a chance of further trouble.

These are just some of the most common reasons Minnesota police pull someone over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.  DWIs are very serious offenses in Minnesota and the severity often depends on particular facts.  Drive safely and make smart decisions.  But, if you or someone you know find themselves in trouble please contact St. Paul DWI Defense Attorney Eric Rice at (651) 998-9660 or to learn about your defense and options.  Future posts will explain what happens once you’re pulled over and what your options are if you’re arrested.