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probable cause for a dui stop in tennessee

Probable Cause for a DUI Stop in Tennessee

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in Tennessee, and the consequences can be severe. Police officers are vigilant about identifying and stopping impaired drivers, but they must have a valid reason to do so. This valid reason is often termed “probable cause.” Understanding what constitutes probable cause in a DUI stop is crucial for every motorist, as it forms the basis of your legal rights during such an encounter..

What is Probable Cause?

Probable cause is a legal concept that means law enforcement has reasonable grounds to believe that a person has committed or is committing a crime. In the context of a DUI stop, officers must have a reasonable suspicion that the driver is operating the vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If the officer cannot establish probable cause – or your attorney can prove that the causes were spurious – it may be enough to get the changes against you dismissed.

Signs that Can Establish Probable Cause

There are multiple signs or behaviors that officers might look for before stopping a driver on suspicion of DUI. These signs are typically manifestations of impaired driving and can include:


  1. Erratic Driving: This can be swerving, driving too slowly, tailgating, or making overly wide turns.
  2. Traffic Violations: Speeding, failing to signal, running a stop sign, or any other traffic infraction can give officers a reason to initiate a stop.
  3. Physical Appearance: Bloodshot eyes, an open container of alcohol in the vehicle, or the smell of alcohol can all be indications of impaired driving.
  4. Accidents: If a driver is involved in an accident and shows signs of impairment, this can provide probable cause.
  5. Information from Third Parties: Sometimes, concerned citizens may call law enforcement if they believe someone is driving under the influence.

When a law enforcement officer observes any of the above signs, they can legally stop the vehicle to investigate further.

Tennessee DUI Laws

Tennessee law is clear on the issue of driving under the influence. The primary DUI statute is found in [Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-401]( It states that it is illegal for any person to operate or be in physical control of an automobile or other motor-driven vehicle on the public roads of Tennessee while:


  1. Under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, controlled substance, drug, or substance affecting the central nervous system;
  2. The alcohol concentration in the person’s blood or breath is eight-hundredths of one percent (0.08%) or more.


Tennessee also has an implied consent law, which is found in [Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-406]( This law essentially means that if you drive in the state of Tennessee, you’ve given your implied consent to a blood, breath, or urine test if you are arrested for DUI. Refusing such a test can result in the suspension of your driver’s license.

Protecting Your Rights

If you believe you were stopped without probable cause or if you’ve been charged with a DUI, it’s crucial to understand your rights and the legal procedures that follow. An arrest does not necessarily mean a conviction. With the right defense strategy and a knowledgeable attorney like David Clarke by your side, you can challenge the validity of the stop and the evidence against you.

Contact Murfreesboro DUI Attorney David Clarke

If you or a loved one faces DUI charges in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, don’t navigate the complex legal landscape alone. Contact Murfreesboro DUI attorney David Clarke. With a deep understanding of Tennessee’s DUI laws and a commitment to defending the rights of the accused, he can provide the expert guidance and representation you need during this challenging time. Clarke has helped countless people just like you beat false charges or fight against illegal stops. Reach out to Clarke Law for a consultation on your case today at (615) 796-6299.