By now, virtually everyone realizes the inherent dangers of distracted driving. After all, every day, nine people die and another 1,000 suffer injuries due to inattentiveness behind the wheel. Still, another risk of distracted driving may land you in handcuffs.
Unless you are at a sobriety checkpoint, officers typically must have reasonable suspicion before they stop your vehicle. Distracted driving may give officers the level of suspicion they need to validate their stop.
When compared to reasonable doubt and probable cause, reasonable suspicion is a low legal standard. It is not meaningless, however. Essentially, reasonable suspicion means given the available circumstances, a reasonable officer would believe someone may have committed an offense.
For purposes of a DUI arrest, reasonable suspicion may come from failing to follow traffic rules, having an unsafe vehicle or driving erratically. Because distracted driving may cause you to swerve, speed, tailgate or run red lights, officers may stop you for it.
To support a DUI arrest, the law requires officers to have probable cause. While distracted driving may give them a reason to stop your vehicle, they are likely to be looking for something more. If officers smell alcohol on your breath, they may have probable cause to arrest you. The same is true if you fail a field sobriety test or a breath test.
If officers lack either reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle or probable cause to arrest you, you may have a valid defense against DUI charges. Ultimately, though, paying attention every time you climb behind the wheel may be an effective way to avoid charges altogether.