When can your vehicle be stopped by law enforcement in the state of Vermont? Your motor vehicle can be stopped in Vermont for either a motor vehicle violation (such as speeding or an expired registration) or based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. A basic investigatory stop can quickly transition into a DUI investigation.
Most DUI stops in Vermont are the result of motor vehicle infractions. Even small motor vehicle violations can result in a valid stop. Vermont courts have upheld the constitutionality of stops based on license plate lights being out, failure to turn on your headlights after sunset, or failing to use your turn signal.
A recent Vermont Supreme Court decision outlined the standard that an officer must possess to lawfully stop a vehicle: “The level of suspicion required for a lawful investigatory stop is considerably less than a preponderance of the evidence, but it must be more than an inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or hunch.” Zullo v. State, 2019 VT 1 (Vt., 2019).
Sometimes Vermont law enforcement will initiate a stop of a motor vehicle based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. This can be based on the officer observing a car weave in or outside of its lane; observing the car have difficulty maintaining its lane; or other erratic driving behavior.
Once the stop has been initiated, Vermont law enforcement may proceed to a DUI investigation. It is important to know your rights.