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What should you expect during a suspected drunk driving stop?

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2024 | DUI Defense |

Suspected drunk driving traffic stops are one tool that police officers have to keep the roadways safe. If you’re a subject of one of these stops, knowing what to expect can help you to protect your rights and legal options.

In order to initiate a stop, an officer must have reasonable suspicion. This means that they have witnessed – or have other reason to suspect – that something is happening (or has happened) that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a crime is occurring/has occurred. Failing to stop at a red light, swerving between lanes and braking without a valid reason are some examples of reasonable suspicion for a drunk driving stop.

Determining impairment

When a police officer stops your vehicle because they think you’re impaired, they’re going to try to find out if you’re impaired. They may pay attention to smells to determine if they smell alcohol. Checking for visible alcohol containers and looking to see if your eyes are bloodshot may also provide clues.

The officer may also talk to you to find out what’s going on. They may ask things like where you’ve been, where you’re going and whether you’ve consumed alcohol. Remember, you have specific rights against self-incrimination so it may be in your best interests not to answer those questions.

If the officer still believes you’re impaired after talking to you, they may ask you to take a field sobriety test. Only three tests, the one-leg stand, the walk-and-turn and the horizontal gaze nystagmus are part of the standardized field sobriety test that’s admissible in court.

Another step the officer may take is asking you to take a chemical test. This can be done via a breath, urine or blood test. Failing to take this test could lead to a driver’s license suspension because of the implied consent law.

A blood alcohol concentration level of .08% is considered legally impaired for non-commercial drivers who are 21 years old or older. The level is lower for underage and commercial drivers.

If the officer determines you’re impaired, they may arrest you. This requires probable cause, which is a higher standard than reasonable suspicion. Determining the most suitable defense strategy should be your priority after you’re arrested for drunk driving because the penalties associated with a conviction can significantly impact your life.