When Can an Arkansas Police Officer Stop You For a DWI?

In Arkansas drivers are, for the most part, free to travel from place to place without interference from police officers. The U.S. Constitution establishes that people are free from being seized unreasonably, and the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure further direct police behavior in stopping or detaining people.

When can an officer make contact with you in your vehicle?

An officer can make stop your vehicle and/or make contact with you for four basic reasons:

  • an officer observes a traffic violation
  • an officer reasonably suspects you of committing DWI or a felony or dangerous crime
  • a police agency operates a roadblock, or
  • an officer makes a voluntary contact.

Stopped for Arkansas Traffic Violations

Officers can stop you for a number of traffic violations according to Arkansas driving laws. In this case, the officer stops you based on probable cause (a reasonable belief) that you broke a traffic law.

Careless driving, running a stop light or stop sign, improper lane changes, and driving left of center are common traffic violations that may lead to a stop and DWI investigation. These violations involve bad driving and may also be used, along with other evidence, to show you were intoxicated.

You may also be stopped for something completely unrelated to your driving ability, such as expired vehicle tags or broken taillights. While these violations don't tend to show intoxication, they do give an officer reason to stop your car. Once the officer has legally stopped you and made contact, observations about your condition may turn the simple traffic stop into a DWI investigation.

Suspicion of DWI

An officer can also stop you specifically for suspicion of DWI. The general rule is that the police can stop any person an officer reasonably suspects (or has what is known as "probable cause) that a person is committing, has committed or is about to commit a felony or a misdemeanor involving danger of injury or property damage. Arkansas courts consider DWI to be one of these dangerous crimes. Probable cause means that enough reliable information exists to support a reasonable belief that a person has committed a crime. Read more about the fines and penalties for an Arkansas DWI.

Police officers rely on training and experience in determining which drivers to stop. DWI indicators that officers look for include weaving, inappropriate braking, drifting, hitting or nearly striking vehicles or objects and other forms of erratic driving. An officer who observes a combination of these will likely suspect that you are driving while intoxicated and conduct a traffic stop.

You may be stopped based on information from a reliable witness, such as a store clerk who observes you exhibiting signs of intoxication and then leaving in a vehicle. In order to be reliable, the witness must be identified. Anonymous tips are not sufficient.

Roadblocks

Some police agencies use roadblocks, particularly during targeted enforcement campaigns. Arkansas courts have allowed officers to stop you at DWI checkpoints provided that officers use them for legitimate purpose of checking licenses and vehicle documents rather than as a pretext for searching vehicles. Roadblocks must also be publicized and clearly identified with marked patrol cars.

Voluntary Contact

The law permits officers to make voluntary contact with you, meaning that they approach a parked vehicle without using blue lights or sirens and simply try to determine the lawfulness of your conduct without detaining you. This interaction sometimes occurs when an officer observes a vehicle parked in a strange location late at night.

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