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Reasonable Suspicion: What is It and How Does It Affect My Raleigh DUI Case?

Reasonable Suspicion and Your Raleigh DUI Case | Dewey Brinkley LawAccording to the law, although this isn’t always the case in terms of practice, law enforcement in North Carolina needs to have reasonable suspicion in order to pull your vehicle over. Of course, if the police officer catches you speeding or breaking a traffic law, then the officer has the right to pull you over. At the same time, if the police officer believes that you’ve been drinking or doing drugs, and pulls you over to conduct a sobriety test, then that police officer must have a reasonable suspicion that holds up in court.


As a Raleigh DWI lawyer and former Wake County Assistant District Attorney, we at the Law Office of Dewey P. Brinkley have found that, in some cases, the arresting law enforcement officer didn’t have reasonable suspicion to pull the car over in the first place. The 4th Amendment protects against unlawful searches and seizures, and if law enforcement violated your rights, you may be able to achieve a favorable result in North Carolina criminal courts. To speak with attorney Brinkley over a free consultation regarding your case, call our Raleigh DWI defense law firm today at (919) 832-0307.

What is Reasonable Suspicion in Traffic Stops

If you weren’t committing any other traffic violations or other law violations when the police pulled you over, then the law enforcement needs to have an articulable, reasonable suspicion that you may have been drinking (or breaking the law in another manner).

The landmark decision regarding reasonable suspicion comes from the United States Supreme Court decision of Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). In this case, the court ruled that the 4th Amendment gives citizens the right to be free from being stopped by police officers unless the police have a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is taking place. Additionally, the law states that the reasonable suspicion has to be more than a mere hunch.

The 4th Amendment states that:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Stops that involve reasonable, articulable suspicion are known as Terry Stops.

What Constitutes Reasonable Suspicion

In addition to understand reasonable suspicion, it’s also important to consider what constitutes reasonable suspicion. The North Carolina Court of Appeals, citing the case of State v. Wilson, said that “[A] traffic stop based on an officer’s [reasonable] suspicion that a traffic violation is being committed, but which can only be verified by stopping the vehicle, such as drunk driving or driving with a revoked license, is classified as an investigatory stop, also known as a Terry Stop. Such an investigatory-type stop is justified if the totality of circumstances affords an officer reasonable grounds to believe that criminal activity may be afoot.”

Given these definitions, law enforcement does have a lot of leeway when it comes to what designates reasonable suspicion. For instance, reasonable suspicion can be, technically, established by any of the following observations:

  • Straddling the center line
  • Making an illegal turn
  • Drifting from one lane to another
  • Nearly hitting other cars or objects
  • Extremely slow or erratic driving
  • Frequent braking
  • Stopping in the middle of the road for no apparent reason

Although this is far from a complete list, it’s also very important to remember that every case is unique, and the establishment of reasonable suspicion can be on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, police are not permitted to pull drivers over based on factors such as time and location. For example, police cannot pull you over at 2:00 am near a popular bar, unless, of course, they have reasonable suspicion based on your driving behavior.

Defenses Against Reasonable Suspicion

Always remember that just because a law enforcement officer feels he/she has reasonable suspicion to pull you over, it doesn’t mean that the law enforcement truly has reasonable suspicion. If you believe that the officer didn’t have reasonable suspicion, then you and your attorney can argue for a motion to dismiss the charges, whereas your entire case may be dismissed.

Additionally, if the officer pulled you over for speeding, the officer cannot immediately launch an investigation regarding drinking and/or drug usage, and unless the officer has probable cause, then he/she cannot search your vehicle for alcohol.

Get a Leading DWI Defense With Raleigh Lawyer Dewey Brinkley

If you believe that your DWI arrest in North Carolina resulted from a traffic stop where the officer didn’t have probable cause to pull you over, then, with the help of an experienced Raleigh DWI and criminal defense lawyer, you might be able to fight your charges in court.

For a free consultation and to speak with attorney Dewey Brinkley regarding your case, call our Raleigh criminal defense law office today at (919) 832-0307.

3 DWI Defenses in North Carolina — Raleigh DWI Lawyer

3 DWI Defenses in North Carolina | Raleigh DWI Lawyer Dewey Brinkley

When stopped for DWI, blowing into the breathalyzer, or submitting a chemical test, it’s easy to think, “I’m getting a DWI; there’s no way out of this.” However, there are many ways to defend a DWI charge in North Carolina. With the help of an experienced and knowledgeable Raleigh DWI lawyer, such as attorney Dewey P. Brinkley, you can confront the prosecution’s evidence and narrative while challenging the police’s reasons for stopping the vehicle as well as the procedures during the arrest and booking.


Remember, you have rights, and from the stop to the booking procedures at a Raleigh or Wake County court, Raleigh DWI lawyer Dewey Brinkley will use the full extent of North Carolina and federal laws to ensure that your rights are protected. For a free, no-obligation consultation with the Law Office of Dewey P. Brinkley, call our Raleigh DWI defense firm today at (919) 832-0307.

The Knoll DWI Defense

The Knoll DWI defense is a common strategy when determining if the magistrate or law enforcement allowed the defendant a witness so that he/she could use his/her right to create a defense. This defense comes from the 1984 case of North Carolina v. David Knoll. In this case, Knoll was being charged with a DWI after blowing 0.30, but he was challenging the fact that the magistrate had violated his right to gain access to witnesses. The North Carolina court upheld Knoll’s defense, and found that the magistrate committed substantial statutory violations related to the setting of conditions of pretrial release that prejudiced the defendant’s ability to gain access to witnesses.

Especially in implied consent cases, it’s really important to allow defendants access to witnesses as quickly as possible. This is because the charge that you were impaired when driving requires a witness who may be able to rebut the allegations (or confirm them) by observing your behavior at a relevant time in reference to your driving.

Furthermore, the Knoll Defense can be effective when there is no “good” reason for the magistrate to set a secured bond and deny you this right to a witness; going through the process of posting a bond can take hours. If the witness would have been allowed immediate access to you, then your ability to prepare a defense may not have been prejudiced. As such, through the Knoll DWI defense, you and your attorney can argue that the violation led to irreparable prejudice as it relates to preparing your defense.

The Ferguson DWI Defense

In addition to the Knoll DWI defense, there is also the Ferguson DWI defense. This method refers to the 1988 case of North Carolina v. Walter Ferguson. In this case, Mr. Ferguson claimed that he was denied his Constitutional and statutory right to a witness to observe the breathalyzer test.

The “Ferguson method” is now known as a method to get a DWI dismissed on the grounds that the witness wasn’t allowed access to the intox room to observe the breath test. In North Carolina, when being arrested for a DWI, you have the right to 30 minutes to contact a witness and have that witness come down to the station to observe your breath test. If your witness arrives and isn’t allowed to the intox room to observe the process, then you may have a defense.

Like the Knoll defense, and especially in implied consent cases, there is a need to allow access to witnesses as quickly as possible.

The Absher DWI Defense

The Absher DWI defense refers to the 2009 case of North Carolina V. Paul Absher. In this case, Mr. Absher claimed that, since the video that was in the custody of the State had been destroyed, his case had been hurt as a result. As such, when defending a DWI, the “Absher method” is a way to get the DWI dismissed on the grounds that the government and/or law enforcement had destroyed or lost evidence that would have been favorable in your case.

Remember, the government has a duty to present evidence, even if it is favorable for the defendant. If the prosecution lost or destroyed the video record of the arrest, or perhaps the footage was mislabeled or it didn’t download properly on the police station’s servers, then you may have the possibility to get your DWI dismissed.

How Can Raleigh DWI Lawyer Brinkley Help

There are many ways to fight a DWI charge in North Carolina, but it’s essential to have an experienced and competent DWI lawyer who can maximize the benefit of these defenses while building evidence, witnesses, and a comprehensive narrative to fight for your rights and freedoms. Don’t let the numbers on the breathalyzer dictate the outcome of your DWI case, and call Raleigh DWI lawyer Dewey Brinkley today at (919) 832-0307. Free consultations are available.