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4 Ways Police Officers Spot Drunk Drivers

August 8, 2022

Police officers are trained to recognize signs that indicate drunk drivers may be on the road. However, police only have to witness a minor traffic violation to make a traffic stop. During a traffic stop, officers look for additional evidence that the driver may be impaired. At Jeff GOULD Law, we know anyone could find themselves behind the wheel after a drink. It could happen to you and it could happen to me.  Understanding how police officers spot drunk drivers could be the difference between an unnecessary traffic stop and a safe drive home. 

  1. How do Police Officers Decide Where to Patrol?

Police officers know where drunk drivers are most likely to drive. They may set up patrols in those areas and simply watch for any drivers who may show signs of impairment. There are days when impaired driving is likely to peak, like on major holidays. Not surprisingly, Fridays and Saturdays tend to have higher rates of DUIs as well. Finally, DUIs are most likely to occur during closing time or after the last call: late at night or very early in the morning. 

All an officer needs is “Reasonable Suspicion” to believe a civil or criminal infraction has occurred.  If an officer pulls you over for a traffic stop and has reason to believe that you are impaired, you may be facing a DUI charge. To justify a traffic stop = Reasonable Suspicion; any observed driving violation may be used. This could include broken tail lights, expired registration, illegal window tint, or failing to turn headlights on at night. Many times the officer has received a call from a Good Samaritan who has observed erratic driving behavior. However, there are other signs that police officers look for that may indicate the driver’s impairment. 

2. Signs of a Driver Who May Be Impaired = Reasonable Suspicion

Certain driving patterns or habits may make a driver a target for a DUI traffic stop. Unfortunately, any inattentive driving may appear to the officer as though the driver is impaired, regardless of whether they are.

To an officer, a driver who is texting, fishing for something in the glove box, or talking to a passenger in the backseat may appear to be under the influence. Signs of impaired driving could include sudden breaking or weaving, driving too slow, delayed reaction to traffic signals, or crossing the median. Any of these actions while driving, regardless of whether the driver is impaired, may result in a traffic stop based on Reasonable Suspicion. 

3. Signs of Alcohol During a Traffic Stop 

After the initial traffic stop, police may be looking for any sign of illegal activity, including that the driver may be impaired. They also look for cues that the driver may have been drinking, such as the smell of alcohol or contradictions in the driver’s story. Unfortunately, there are a number of innocent reasons that a driver may be exhibiting signs of impairment. 

Commonly cited signs of impairment in drivers include bloodshot eyes, delayed response, and slurred, stuttered, or rambling speech.  While these could all point to alcohol consumption, they could also point to allergies, exhaustion, or general nervousness. 

4. Being Accused of Drunk Driving While Sober

It can be frustrating to be pulled over for an unknown reason or accused of something for which you are innocent. This immediately puts the driver on the defense, regardless of whether  they’re at fault or have committed a civil traffic infraction. This may understandably make the driver nervous or uncomfortable, which the officers may use to their advantage. 

If you were accused of drunk driving when you were fine to drive, defenses are available to clear your name. Jeff GOULD Law, The Attorney in YOUR Corner, has over 20 years of experience fighting DUIs and has the experience and expertise required to give YOU the best shot at defending yourself. If you have any questions about a DUI, driving restrictions, or the procedure that led to a DUI conviction, we can help. 

DISCLAIMER: The information on this blog/site is NOT, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.  It is for general informational use only.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. Further, this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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