DWI Arrests vs. DWI Detentions
A DWI arrest serves the function of notifying the community that an individual has been accused of a crime and also serves to try to deter the DWI suspect from committing other crimes. A DWI arrest may occur by a police officer (1) putting handcuffs on the DWI suspect or (2) by any act of the police officer that indicates an intention to take the DWI suspect into custody and that subjects the DWI suspect to the actual control and will of the police officer. It is important to note that unless there is the use of restraint by a police officer and that restraint is under real legal authority, there is no actual arrest in a DWI case.
Constitutional Standards for DWI Arrests
DWI arrests are covered by the Fourth Amendment to the constitution, which relates to searches and seizures of persons and property. DWI arrests constitute seizures of persons under the Fourth Amendment. Under Fourth Amendment standards an “arrest” has been made when a DWI suspect is seized for more than a brief period on a public street.
For a DWI arrest to be lawful, the police officer must have “probable cause” to arrest the suspect for DWI. “Probable cause” to make a DWI arrest exists where, at the moment of the arrest, the facts and circumstances within the knowledge of the arresting officer are sufficient to warrant a prudent person in believing that the DWI suspect had committed a criminal offense.
A DWI detention occurs whenever a police officer accosts a DWI suspect and restrains their freedom to walk away, or approaches and questions a DWI suspect, or stops a DWI suspect who is believed to have been driving while intoxicated. A DWI detention is not a formal arrest and does not generally involve physical restraint. A DWI detention allows police officers to investigate the circumstances and determine whether a DWI suspect has been driving while intoxicated and determine whether they should arrest the suspect, investigate further, or take no action because their initial suspicion proved groundless. When a DWI suspect is detained for investigative purposes, the suspect is generally held without warrant or charge for questioning or as a precautionary measure when a police officer believes they have committed a DWI offense.
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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