Police departments often ramp up enforcement efforts to find drunk or impaired drivers. They may even assume that people on the road at a certain time — late at night or early in the morning — are more likely to be impaired.
If so, can the police just start randomly pulling over cars to test the drivers? Would they be justified in doing so in the name of public safety?
All traffic stops must have a reason
Unless they’re using DUI checkpoints, police officers need probable cause for a traffic stop. There has to be a reason. The stop can’t be random, and simply seeing someone driving late at night is not enough for that stop. If you do not violate the law, the police cannot pull you over just to see if you’re impaired.
That said, remember that it does not take much at all for a police officer to make a stop. Maybe you did not signal when you changed lanes. Maybe you have a cracked taillight. Police officers have even pulled people over for having obstructed vision when they have things hanging from the mirror.
In other words, if an officer really wants to stop you, he or she may be able to find a very minor reason to do so. If the officer then believes you are impaired, they may arrest you or give you a test to see if you’re under the influence. This whole situation can stem from the smallest, most minor infraction you can imagine.
Understanding your rights
If you get arrested, especially if you think the stop was illegal, you need to understand your legal rights and defense options.