In order to stop vehicles in Minnesota, police officers must have a minimum of reasonable suspicion of criminal activity on the part of the occupants. While reasonable suspicion is less than the probable cause that is necessary for an arrest, it involves more than an inarticulable hunch. Instead, it must be a reasonable suspicion that is based on objective facts. If an officer does not have a reasonable suspicion that a driver has committed a crime or traffic offense, the evidence that is gathered as a result of the stop may be suppressed at the motion hearing. In some DWI Minnesota cases, whether or not reasonable suspicion existed is at issue, and an experienced DWI defense attorney may challenge the validity of the stop if it does not appear that the officer had the requisite reasonable suspicion.
What Is Reasonable Suspicion?
Reasonable Suspicion is acquiring a belief based on minimally objective reasons for the further investigation. While a driver does not need to have committed a traffic offense in order to be stopped, the officer must have other facts available to him or her to make a reasonable decision to stop a vehicle. A driver’s mere presence in a high-crime area is not enough to support the basis for a stop. The fact that a driver is from somewhere else is likewise insufficient. On the other hand, officers have reasonable suspicion to stop vehicles if they believe the drivers are someone else even when it turns out not to be the case. Officers may stop vehicles when they observe drivers committing traffic violations. While cars may be pulled over for repeatedly swerving in their lanes, it is not considered to amount to reasonable suspicion if a car swerves once in its lane but does not cross out of it.
Following a Stop
After the vehicle is pulled over, an officer may talk to the driver and demand proof of insurance and identification. The officer may also look inside of the vehicle from the outside to see if anything in plain sight that warrants further investigation. Officers are allowed to make observations of the drivers for indicators of alcohol, such as bloodshot or watery eyes, slurred speech or the smell of alcohol. If suspicion develops from these observations, they may ask the drivers to step out of the vehicles and to perform standardized field sobriety tests. The reasonable suspicion requirement exists to protect drivers from unreasonable stops, searches, and seizures.