Traffic Stops: Reasonable Articulable Suspicion

published by Andrew Flusche on May 3, 2012

To pull you over, an officer typically needs “reasonable articulable suspicion.” That’s a mouthful that basically means “more than a hunch.”

Video Transcription

Hello, my name is Andrew Flusche, and I’m a Virginia traffic attorney. If you are stopped while driving a vehicle, the officer has to have what’s called “reasonable articulable suspicion” in order to pull you over. There are some exceptions to that, such as roadblocks and checkpoints, but those are a whole other video’s worth of information.

Basically, if you’re stopped in a normal situation, where the officer puts on their lights and pulls you over, to make it a legal stop, what the law says is that the officer has to have reasonable articulable suspicion that you are violating the law in some form. Typically, that involves speeding, making an improper lane change, running a stop sign, or something of that nature. In many cases, a simple stop like that ends up being a DUI, possession of marijuana, or something more serious.

But in some cases, it’s not clear that the officer had reasonable articulable suspicion of some kind of legal violation. Sometimes what happens is maybe the officer doesn’t have a specific, clear violation of the law. Virginia law, unfortunately, does let the officer stop you if there is some reasonable suspicion of some kind of problem. There is case law that says that weaving in your own lane can be enough for the officer to pull you over and suspect you for DUI if his training basically says, and his experience says that weaving within your lane is caused by DUI, then he can pull you over for that.

Sometimes though, the officer can be mistaken when he pulls you over. He might think that he has a good stop, but that stop might not be upheld by the court as valid. The key thing for a defense is that if the officer did not have reasonable articulable suspicion to pull you over, then any evidence obtained from the stop should be suppressed in court. In many traffic and DUI and possession of marijuana cases, that might be enough to win the whole case. That might throw out all the evidence against you basically.

This is a really important thing for us to look at first in your case: did the officer have a reasonable articulable suspicion to pull you over? It’s not probable cause – that’s a whole other topic and it’s a different standard – but to make a traffic stop, he has to have reasonable articulable suspicion, and that’s basically more than a hunch. So if you would like to talk about that on your case, give me a call.

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