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What Is Probable Cause and Why Is it Important in Tennessee DUI Cases?

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Campbell County criminal defense attorney DUI

As you may already know, in Tennessee, DUI is so serious that being convicted of it, even for the first time, can result in severe consequences, including jail time, fines, and revocation of your license. Indeed, not even a first-time DUI is considered a small offense in Tennessee. What is more, if you are pulled over for reasons other than drunk-driving and the officer discovers that you are also drunk, you could be faced with compounded charges in which you must defend against more than one offense. This is why probable cause can make or break a DUI case, and really, any criminal defense case for that matter.

What Is Probable Cause to Pull You Over in Tennessee?

Over the years, “probable cause” has become more loosely interpreted in the higher courts, both at the national and state levels. For instance, in Tennessee, pulling someone over even for the slightest presumption of guilt for breaking minor traffic laws is enough probable cause. After that, the police might perceive other things about your person or your property that leads them to suspect other more serious offenses. Like dominoes, the charges could pile up, and you might find yourself dealing with multiple charges, some of which could result from searches of your car or your property that you might have given consent for without even knowing it. 

In other words, if you do not have an experienced attorney who can fight for your rights and determine that the arresting officer did not have probable cause to initially pull you over, then you might not be able to escape conviction. The definition of probable cause as it pertains to the rules of the road in Tennessee is as follows:

  • In general, probable cause is usually quite subjective to both the arresting officer(s) and the court(s). Despite this fact, the courts try their best to remain objective in their definitions of what the “probable cause of a reasonable person” in regards to pulling over a driver.

  • Based on this definition, a chain of events could occur, including these potential examples: 

    • The law enforcement officer suspects a traffic violation is being committed (as minor as veering into someone else’s lane or speeding a few miles above the limit).

    • Upon pulling the suspect over, the officer notices other issues, such as the smell of alcohol or drugs or suspicious behavior.

    • Based on this “reasonable suspicion” of other more serious offenses, the officer could search the car for drugs and/or administer a breathalyzer test. 

    • A DUI can be charged if a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level is above the legal limit (.08 percent), but other charges could result, including drug possession.

As you can see, a single “probable cause” belief that a minor traffic violation was committed can turn into compounded charges and something as major as a DUI. Drivers should therefore be especially vigilant since they never know when they could get pulled over in Tennessee based on probable cause.  

Contact a Campbell County Criminal Defense Lawyer

Nobody is perfect, and in Tennessee, law enforcement can lawfully pull you over for probable cause in many different scenarios. A minor infraction could place you on their radar. In that sense, you should be prepared to hire a skilled Jacksboro, TN DUI defense attorney to prepare the proper strategy for resolving your case. Call the Law Office of William F. Evans today at 423-449-7980 to schedule a free consultation to learn more about how we can help you fight your DUI or other criminal charges.




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