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Legal standard of proof for DUI traffic stops

Chicago motorists who find themselves facing drunk driving charges following a traffic stop may want to gain a better understanding of the role that reasonable suspicion might play in their case. When there is reason to suspect that an individual may have been involved in a crime, this legal standard of proof is what allows a law enforcement official to briefly detain the individual without violation of that person's Fourth Amendment rights.

Reasonable suspicion was first established as a legal standard of proof by the United States Supreme Court in 1968. In a case that was later brought before the Illinois Supreme Court in 2012, the court held reasonable suspicion as the "proper standard for an investigatory traffic stop".

Reasonable suspicion of DUI may be established when an officer observes unusual, erratic or illegal behavior on the part of a motorist. In some situations, a stop for a non-moving violation such as a burned-out headlight, expired vehicle registration sticker or other matter could provide a rationale for the stop.

Because it can be established by anything that suggests that a driver might become, be or had been involved in criminal activity, reasonable suspicion may appear somewhat subjective. The higher standard of probable cause must be met in order for the driver to be taken into custody and charged with DUI. Probable cause requires an officer to have enough evidence to indicate that a crime has probably been committed.

Chicago drivers who believe that they may have been unreasonably stopped and searched without reasonable suspicion may find it beneficial to seek legal counsel. After evaluating the police report and other evidence, the criminal defense attorney may be able to have the drunk driving charges dismissed in the event that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion for the initial traffic stop.

Source: Illinois Bar Journal, "Supreme court: 'reasonable suspicion' enough for traffic stop", Adam W. Lasker, October 2012

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