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What are the police looking for when you are pulled over for DUI?

On Behalf of | Apr 15, 2024 | DUI

No one wants to be pulled over – for any reason. While true, being pulled over for driving under the influence (DUI) makes the situation even more stressful. Understanding what law enforcement officers look for during these encounters can help individuals navigate the situation more effectively and protect their rights.

Here, you can learn what signs the police are looking for and when you may be arrested for DUI.

Signs of impairment

Law enforcement officers are trained to observe various signs of impairment when interacting with drivers. These may include erratic driving behavior such as swerving, speeding or driving too slowly. Additionally, officers may look for physical signs of intoxication. Examples include the smell of alcohol on your breath, slurred speech and bloodshot eyes. 

Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)

One of the first steps officers may take during a DUI traffic stop is to administer field sobriety tests (FSTs). These tests assess a driver’s coordination, balance and cognitive functioning. Common FSTs include the following:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test
  • Walk-and-turn test
  • One-leg stand test.

Officers closely observe the driver’s performance on the tests. They use these observations as probable cause (if you do not perform well on them). 

Breathalyzer tests

If the police believe you have been drinking alcohol, they may request a breathalyzer test. This portable device measures alcohol concentration in a person’s breath and provides a numerical reading known as the blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

Observations and documentation

Officers will document their observations and interactions with the driver throughout the traffic stop. This documentation may include notes on the driver’s behavior, field sobriety test performance and chemical test results. These records are crucial in any subsequent legal proceedings related to the DUI charge.

Being pulled over for DUI can have serious legal consequences, including fines, license suspension and even jail time. By understanding what law enforcement officers are looking for during these encounters, individuals can better protect their rights and make informed decisions about how to respond. It is essential to remain calm, cooperate with officers within legal bounds, and seek legal advice if facing DUI charges.