What should you know about drunk driving stops?

On Behalf of | Mar 10, 2023 | DUI

Police officers who patrol have a duty to try to keep the roads as safe as they can. Part of that duty means trying to determine when a driver is too impaired to operate a vehicle. They conduct traffic stops to help them accomplish this goal.

Traffic stops can only be initiated if there’s a valid reason. The set standard for this is known as reasonable suspicion. This isn’t as high of a standard as probable cause. Reasonable suspicion means that the average person would agree that what the officer saw could cause them to think that there may be something amiss with the vehicle or driver.

What could provide reasonable suspicion for a drunk driving stop?

Many things drivers do can lead to reasonable suspicion for a drunk driving stop. Some of the actions include:

  • Stopping in the middle of the road
  • Swerving or straddling the center line
  • Driving the wrong way
  • Failing to use headlights when necessary
  • Going through traffic signs and signals
  • Making illegal turns

It’s also possible that something else will occur that results in an officer coming into contact with an impaired driver. For example, a traffic stop could occur because of a burned out license plate light or a cracked windshield that obscures the driver’s line of sight. Another example is a traffic accident. In these cases, the officer might end up with reasonable suspicion of a motorist’s impairment based on the driver’s behaviors and other tell-tale signs.

What happens if a vehicle is stopped?

Once an officer makes contact with a driver, they may decide to ask the driver to do a chemical test or a field sobriety test. These may provide the officer with probable cause to initiate an arrest. One important distinction is that a roadside breath test can’t be used in court, so if the results point to impairment, the person will likely have another test on a stationary machine or via a blood or urine sample after they have been arrested.

Learning about your defense strategy options is crucial if you’re facing a drunk driving charge. Working with someone who is familiar with these matters is beneficial because you may not have long to determine what to do. It should also be stressed that some of the options you have available to you when you’re in this position are very time sensitive. As a result, it is critical to act quickly.