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Vehicle Stops for DUI in Connecticut

A law enforcement officer can initiate a traffic stop if he observes the vehicle violating any traffic laws.   The officer may stop a vehicle if he has a reasonable belief that criminal activity may be taking place.  This reasonable belief may come from watching the suspect engage in innocent behavior; however some of the behavior giving rise to the suspicion must be witnessed by the officer who initiated the stop.  A report from a third party that the suspect engaged in questionable behavior is insufficient if the behavior observed by the law enforcement officer does not reinforce the suspicion.

In one case an officer received an anonymous tip that a vehicle was being driven across lane markings.  The witness continued to follow the vehicle and the officer observed it for some time, however the officer did not personally witness any erratic driving.  The court ruled that it was improper to stop the vehicle because the vehicle’s actions while under the observation of the officer did not provide enough reasonable suspicion to justify the stop.

The stop may only be as long as is reasonably necessary for the officer to investigate his suspicions.  During a proper stop, the officer may look for evidence of other crimes and may question the individuals in the car about matters unrelated to the stop as long as the additional investigation does not appreciably lengthen the time the occupants of the vehicle are stopped.

A sobriety checkpoint is legal under the law of the state.  A sobriety checkpoint is a point in the road where a group of law enforcement officers are stationed and stop all drivers.  The officers interview the drivers, asking basic questions.  During this time, the officers look for anything which may give rise to a reasonable suspicion that the driver is intoxicated.  If a reasonable suspicion of intoxication is found, the driver is asked to pull to the side of the road for a more thorough interview with another officer.

In upholding the legality of the checkpoints, the court found that the temporary restraint of the driver was outweighed by the fact that the checkpoints provided additional security for Connecticut residents.  Under Connecticut law a sobriety checkpoint does not violate the Connecticut constitution if each driver is stopped for only a brief period and the checkpoint follows the restrictions put forward by the United States Supreme Court.

In order for a sobriety checkpoint to be permissible under United States Supreme Court precedent, the checkpoint must stop every vehicle which approaches it and the stop must be of a short duration.

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