When you envision law enforcement officers arresting someone for DWI, you may imagine the police physically seeing a car swerving in the road. While that is the case for many of these incidents, an officer can indeed arrest someone without seeing the driver actually endanger anyone. One notorious example occurred when police tracked down a car that received a complaint from another driver, and the officers located 30 pounds of marijuana in the vehicle.
Many drivers get behind the wheel of a car after a few drinks, believing they can make it back home without catching the attention of law enforcement. However, there are instances where police can arrest drivers on suspicion of DWI due to probable cause.
What constitutes probable cause?
A police officer does not necessarily have to see you driving if there is sufficient probable cause to suggest you drove a vehicle while intoxicated at some point. For example, you may drink some alcohol and instead of driving the entire way home, you pull off to the side of the road to sleep it off. In the middle of the night, you awake to a knocking on the window. While speaking, the officer realizes you have the undeniable odor of alcohol on your breath. Since your car is on the side of the road, he or she deduces you drove while drunk and arrests you. This scenario may hold up in court because there is enough proof beyond a reasonable doubt to suggest you drove while drunk.
Police can also use circumstantial evidence to determine if you were intoxicated and operated a vehicle recently, even if you were in a parked car. For example, if the car has warm tires or a warm engine, then the officer can deduce the car was in motion recently. Even something minor such as the keys being in the ignition can be enough proof to establish probable cause.