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“Probable cause for an arrest has been defined to be a reasonable ground of suspicion supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to warrant a cautious man in believing the accused to be guilty…. To establish probable cause the evidence need not amount to proof of guilt, or even to prima facie evidence of guilt, but it must be such as would actuate a reasonable man acting in good faith.” 5 Am.Jur.2d, Arrest § 44 (1962); State v. Harris, 279 N.C. 307, 182 S.E.2d 364 (1971).

Probable Cause Hearings in North Carolina

Modified Transcript of “Probable Cause to Arrest DWI” for Hearing Impaired:

During a DWI prosecution, the next burden of proof that the state is generally forced to satisfy is called probable cause and I use that term a bit loosely, but what we’re talking about here is the right to arrest you.

Very similar to reasonable suspicion or that level of probable cause, we’re not talking about guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. An officer doesn’t have to have that level of certainty nor is he bound by some of the evidentiary requirements of things that would come into a courtroom.

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At the same time it’s not just a circumstance where they can throw the cuffs on you and say, “Hey, we had the right to take this guy away from his family, away from his vehicle, downtown, and force him to blow into an instrument.”

When we look at it, it’s got to be a totality of the circumstances in determining whether or not the officer had probable cause. Was it more probable than not that there was a crime committed and were you more probably than not the person that committed it?

When we look at DWI probable cause, if we already concede the driving end of things and the fact that it was a motor vehicle and we’re speaking specifically about impairment, they’re going to look at a few things. First they’re going to look at the manner of driving.

This is sometimes that in and of itself, it may satisfy the probable cause. If it is so to measure it with impairment, things like weaving, hitting a mailbox, falling asleep at a red light. Those are things that aren’t even enough just for an officer to come into contact with you but with an odor of alcohol or some kind of impairing substance believed to be in your system, it’s probably going to be enough to throw those cuffs on you and take you downtown.

At the other end of the spectrum we have things though where you may not have done anything wrong, anything visibly in error, but still maybe something that the state would argue they have to arrest you based on.

See Related:  North Carolina DWI Search & Seizure

Things like checkpoints. Things like coming out of an area where there is a domestic call and then the officer ultimately finds out that you have alcohol on your breath after you’ve gotten in the motor vehicle and operated it. Things like that are ones that we look at very, very extensively as the first part of whether or not the officer has the right to arrest you.

Next are the things that are more standard and those are things like standardized field sobriety tests. Those are the things that you’d look at more on any television show about jurisprudence and say, “Hey, this is what officers generally do when they are prosecuting somebody for DWI,” and all of those are done on a case by case basis.

Then lastly there are the things that I just refer to as tell-tale factors. Things like red glassy eyes, slurred speech, strong odor of alcohol, unsteadiness on feet. Maybe if the officer knows something about your record or an open container in the vehicle.

See Related: Probable Cause Hearings in Charlotte NC

All of these things can be taken into consideration and we determine whether or not it is more probable than not that you have committed this offense before they arrest you.

Bill Powers
704-342-4357

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Bill Powers has been listed in 2015 SuperLawyers North Carolina Magazine. In calendar years 2012, 2013 & 2014, SuperLawyers further included Bill in the “Top 100” Lawyers in North Carolina. In 2013 Bill was listed as “Top 25 in Charlotte” by SuperLawyers North Carolina.

For Membership Information & Criterion for Inclusion to SuperLawyers North Carolina see: https://www.superlawyers.com/north-carolina/lawyer/Bill-Powers/ccf452c7-eeb6-4f0e-98e4-337804e043e8.html

Powers Landreth, pllc in 2015 has been again listed as a “Best Law Firm” by U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT. For Member Info & Criterion for Inclusion see: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/profile/powers-mccartan-pllc/overview/44550

In 2015 Bill Powers has been included in Best Lawyers of America. For membership info & criterion for inclusion see: https://www.bestlawyers.com/lawyers/bill-powers/78562/

Bill Powers has also been listed in “Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyers in North Carolina” by The National Trial Lawyers. For member info & criterion for inclusion see: https://www.thenationaltriallawyers.org/profile-view/Bill/Powers/5071/

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Bill Powers
Founding Partner at Powers Landreth PLLC