Recently on our DUI forum a driver asked, “I was partying the other night, but I only had a few beers. I left the bar and was driving down the highway. I was not speeding or anything. Next thing I know, I am stopped and being arrested for DUI. I found out later that I was stopped for a broken tail light. What gives? Is this legal?”
Broken tail light and reasonable suspicion and a DUI stop
Unfortunately, what you have described is quite common. You might wonder how a routine stop for a broken tail light can lead to a DUI arrest, but legally a police officer can stop your car if they have reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred, which includes minor traffic violations.
Consider also, in some states a police officer may even be able to stop your car at a sobriety checkpoint even if there is no traffic violation (although this type of stop has come under fire and is currently not allowed in 12 states).
Common reasons you might be pulled over by the police
It’s not only a broken tail light that should have you worried about a potential traffic stop and possible DUI arrest. In fact, there are a variety of reasons that can establish reasonable suspicion and may allow an officer to pull you over. The most common reasons you can be stopped include the following:
- You are driving too fast or too slow.
Despite what some believe, it’s not just speeding that can get you pulled over by the police. In fact, driving too slow can be an indication that someone is impaired by alcohol or drugs.
- Illegal use of the phone.
Many cities have banned the use of cell phones while driving. So whether you are texting, listing to navigational instructions, talking on the cell phone or perusing Facebook, if you do these activities in certain cities you can be pulled over and ticketed.
- Hazardous driving.
Hazardous driving is probably the strongest indication that you are intoxicated and gives the police a reason to pull you over. So, whether you are swerving, driving erratically, stopping and starting, running a red light, weaving in and out of traffic, racing, or doing anything else that is jeopardizing your safety or that of other drivers, you can expect to be stopped.
- Equipment violations.
Now back to the reason you were stopped and eventually arrested for DUI- faulty equipment. Keep in mind, faulty equipment can include malfunctioning turn signal lights, faulty brake lights, overly tinted windows, detached bumpers, or missing review mirrors.
Fail to keep your equipment working properly and you can expect the police to stop you. If they establish probable cause for intoxication during the stop, you can also expect to be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).
A broken tail light can create reasonable suspicion that a driving infraction has occurred and give police officers the legal authority to stop you. Unfortunately, this stop can lead to a DUI arrest.
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