DWI Arrests vs. DWI Detentions
Constitutional Standards for DWI Detentions
A DWI detention, like a DWI arrest, implicates the Fourth Amendment. However, DWI detentions are distinctly different from DWI arrests and the lawfulness of DWI detentions is governed by a different standard than the traditional probable cause standard for DWI arrests. For a DWI detention to be lawful, the police officer must have a “reasonable suspicion” that a suspect has been driving while intoxicated. If the questioning of a DWI defendant after a traffic stop lasts longer than a few minutes, it is generally considered a detention and the police officer involved must have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred to make the detention lawful. Factors which are important in an officer’s developing a “reasonable suspicion” that a DWI offense has occurred are: (1) personal observations by the officer; (2) demeanor of the DWI suspect; and (3) statements or admissions by the DWI suspect. The concept of “reasonable suspicion” involves a police officer asking themselves whether, based on objective facts, a reasonable police officer would be suspicious that the DWI suspect has committed an offense.
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