Getting arrested for DUI does not mean you will be convicted. Police misconduct, defective breathalyzers and crime lab mistakes may be enough to get your charges lessened or dismissed. Visit our page on Nevada DUI Laws to learn more.
“Reasonable Suspicion” in Nevada – How is it defined?
Under both Nevada and federal law, law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion in order legally to stop and detain a criminal suspect (which is also sometimes called a “Terry Stop” or a “stop and frisk pat down”).
A reasonable suspicion is defined as a sensible and rational impression that a person has committed a crime. And this impression gives law enforcement the Fourth Amendment right to detain the suspect to gather more information.
NRS 171.1231 enumerates the three circumstances when police may stop and detain people based on reasonable suspicion:
Circumstances reasonably indicate that the person has committed – or is about to commit – a crime.
Circumstances reasonably indicate that the person has violated his/her parole or probation.
To ascertain a person’s identity and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his/her presence. But this person is not obligated to tell the officer anything but his/her name.
A detainment based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity may not last longer than necessary and never longer than 60 minutes. And it cannot extend beyond the location where the detention occurred (unless the police then arrest the suspect).1
“The process does not deal with hard certainties, but with probabilities. Long before the law of probabilities was articulated as such, practical people formulated certain commonsense conclusions about human behavior; jurors as factfinders are permitted to do the same — and so are law enforcement officers. Finally, the evidence thus collected must be seen and weighed not in terms of library analysis by scholars, but as understood by those versed in the field of law enforcement.”2
And the Nevada Supreme Court specified three times when prolonging a traffic stop may be reasonable:
The encounter is consensual; or
The circumstances surrounding the stop make the delay reasonable; or
The initial stop provides additional information of criminal conduct, thereby justifying a further delay.3
When determining whether a delayed stop is reasonable, the Nevada Supreme Court uses “an objective eye in the totality of the circumstances.”4
Five specific fact patterns that may justify police stopping and detaining a person under Nevada state law include:
A scantily dressed woman is standing by a truck stop men’s room and talking to the men as they enter. An officer would have reasonable suspicion she is soliciting prostitution.
A person with a gun and full pockets is standing on a corner known for drug deals. An officer would have a reasonable suspicion he may be selling drugs.
A masked man is walking by an empty house with a crowbar. An officer would have a reasonable suspicion he may be about to commit burglary.
A driver repeatedly swerves between lanes. An officer would have reasonable suspicion that the driver may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
A woman is wearing an expensive watch that has been reported stolen. An officer would have a reasonable suspicion that she may have stolen the watch.
How is reasonable suspicion different from probable cause?
Nevada police can stop and detain a suspect based on reasonable suspicion. But in order to arrest this suspect, the police need probable cause. In general, probable cause requires some kind of evidence that is more tangible or citable than mere suspicion.5
For example, swerving may be sufficient reasonablesuspicion to justify a DUI traffic stop. But in order to arrest the driver for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances, the police try to gather evidence such as:
a confession from the driver that he/she was drinking or using drugs;
slurred speech, glassy eyes, the smell of alcohol or marijuana, a stumbling demeanor, or other impairments;
being unable to follow simple requests such as producing the driver’s license or registration;
If the criminal defense lawyer can show the district attorney that the police violated the DUI defendant’s constitutional rights by lacking reasonable suspicion to pull over the defendant in the first place, the state may agree to dismiss the charges without a trial.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.