Question: What does “reasonable suspicion” and “probable cause” mean in a DWI investigation? And what’s the big deal if I admit to having only drank “a couple” of beers?
Before a New Mexico police officer can make contact with a person and conduct a DWI investigation, it is required that the police have “reasonable suspicion.” For a DWI investigation this usually entails articulating a reason to stop an individual before they conduct a DWI investigation. In many DWI investigations this requirement is met when an officer stops a person for a traffic violation, and observes some sign of alcohol consumption. Absent a crash or a roadblock, the police must have a reason to stop an individual before they initiate a DWI investigation, and this requirement is often satisfied to the court when an officer stops a person for a traffic violation and s/he observes some sign of alcohol consumption.
Before a New Mexico police officer can arrest a person for DWI it is required that there be sufficient evidence that a particular individual likely committed a particular offense, this is called “probable cause.” With respect to DWIs, officers often develop probable cause through a suspect’s admissions and observations, whether a person has an odor of alcohol on their breath, whether a person has bloodshot eyes, whether a person has slurred speech, etc.
A New Mexico police officer will nearly always ask a suspect whether they have been drinking before conducting any field sobriety tests. Legally, anyone who has been stopped for suspicion of DWI in New Mexico has the right to remain silent, and it is permissible to refuse to answer the investigating officer’s questions concerning whether, when and how much you’ve been drinking. Remember, if an officer has stopped you for DWI, they are almost certainly trying to gather evidence that they can use to arrest you for and convict you of DWI. Do not make their job easier by making admissions to support their probable cause.