Without reasonable suspicion in Texas, police officers are not allowed to pull you over. This is considered a violation of your constitutional rights. If you’re charged with a crime as a result of this traffic stop, you could have your case dismissed.
But what counts as reasonable suspicion in Texas and is it different than probable cause? Let’s discuss what constitutes being pulled over as opposed to being arrested and provide you with a few examples of reasonable suspicion.
What is reasonable suspicion in Texas?
Police officers cannot pull you over without reasonable suspicion. This means that the police officer must have articulable facts that justify pulling you over. These facts can come in a variety of forms, and they should be based on evidence — not hunches or assumptions.
For example, the police officer may see you and assume you’re driving drunk, but what evidence supports this? Are you simply driving late at night or are you swerving and driving too slow? Swerving and slow driving counts as proof that a crime might be in the process (drinking and driving) and would provide the officer with enough reasonable suspicion to pull you over. A bumper sticker from a local brewery? Not so much.
However, reasonable suspicion doesn’t mean they have the right to arrest you. To arrest you, a police officer needs probable cause.
Probable Cause vs. Reasonable Suspicion
To understand the difference between reasonable suspicion and probable cause in Texas, here’s what you need to remember: you need to be suspicious to be pulled over, and you need a good cause to be arrested.
Let’s go back to the example from earlier.
The police officer notices that you’re swerving and driving slowly. Because of this, they have enough reasonable suspicion to pull you over. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re actually driving while intoxicated, and it doesn’t give the officer enough justification to arrest you.
Once the officer approaches your vehicle, then they will look for facts and evidence to support enough probable cause to arrest you.
For example, you could have been driving temporarily erratically because you were dealing with a crying baby. In this case, the officer would send you on your way.
Or, the officer could approach your vehicle, smell alcohol on your breath, and see an empty beer bottle next to you. In this situation, that would be enough probable cause to administer a BAC test and arrest you for driving while intoxicated.
Keep Reading: Learn more about what to do when pulled over by the police
What are examples of reasonable suspicion?
Traffic violations and erratic driving are the most common forms of reasonable suspicion. In these instances, police officers would have the right to pull you over and investigate further. Here are some examples of traffic violations and erratic driving:
- Swerving in and out of lanes
- Driving against traffic
- Consistently driving too slow or too fast
- Running red lights or traffic stops
- Driving in a reckless manner that could harm people or property
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that cops will use a variety of situations to pull you over (even if it isn’t necessarily a traffic violation). For example, we get asked this question often: Can cops pull you over for driving late at night? While legally you aren’t doing anything wrong, that doesn’t mean a cop won’t find you “suspicious” and pull you over anyways. This includes situations such as dirty vehicles and loud music.
The good news, though, is that these situations are not signs of drunk driving and aren’t actually considered legal grounds to pull you over. They might be “suspicious” to the officer, but they aren’t reasonable suspicion. So, if you were pulled over and your fourth amendment was violated, and then you were charged with a DWI, this could result in a case dismissal.
Whether you were pulled over legally or illegally, it’s important to know your rights. Take a look at the right’s police don’t want you to know during a traffic stop, so you can be better prepared.
Were you pulled over without reasonable suspicion in Texas?
At Thiessen Law Firm, we’re highly experienced with all forms of DWI charges — including ones that violate your rights in the process. With an eight-time Super Lawyer and triple-board certified lawyer on our team, we are more than ready to help you overcome a DWI charge.
Don’t let the system take advantage of you. Give us a call or fill out our online form today to start fighting back.
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