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DUI accidents are probable cause all on their own

You have likely heard that police officers need to have probable cause before they can stop a drunk driver. In essence, they need a reason to make that stop, to start an investigation, to detain the driver and to begin checking to see if the driver is intoxicated.

One thing you should know is that an accident itself is typically viewed as probable cause for a police officer. It is clear to the officer that some law, at some level, was probably broken prior to the accident. It could be one driver running a red light, speeding, driving aggressively, turning without signalling or a whole host of other reasons.

The officer does not know, at that moment, what happened. He or she does not know what laws have been broken or if the driver is drunk. But the officer now has reason to stop at the scene, detain the drivers if necessary and investigate the situation.

Very quickly, depending one what happened and what the officer learns from observing the wreck, he or she may determine that one driver was drunk. For instance, the officer could see empty containers in a car or scattered on the road, or the officer may smell alcohol when talking to one of the drivers. That's enough to escalate things into a DUI investigation, whether or not anyone was hurt.

If you were hurt, then the fact that the other party was intoxicated can prove he or she is liable for your damages. You need to know exactly what legal steps to take after the crash.

Source: FindLaw, "Drunk Driving Accidents," accessed June 01, 2018

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