How Do Police Determine if a Driver Is Operating Under the Influence?

Drunk Driving Lawyer

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in most jurisdictions. Even first-time offenders face severe consequences, such as jail time, fines and loss of license. It’s not just alcohol that can impair judgment behind the wheel. A driver can get a DUI for driving while being impaired by drugs, both licit and illicit ones.

What Tools Can Law Enforcement Use to Determine Intoxication?

There are three main tools that police can use to determine impairment:

  • Observation – if an officer sees a driver swerving or driving slow, this could indicate that the driver is impaired. Officers may also smell alcohol or see a driver’s bloodshot eyes during a traffic stop.
  • Field Sobriety Tests – these are the common FSTs that you see on television, walk-and-turn, the one-leg stand, and the horizontal gaze while touching the nose. Drivers aren’t required to participate in FSTs, but officers can use the performance to determine intoxication.
  • Breathalyzers – blowing into a breathalyzer is another way that law enforcement determines intoxication. However, breathalyzers are for alcohol screening.

Once the driver is arrested, the police may obtain a warrant for a blood or urine test. Some states give drivers a chance to talk to a lawyer before submitting to a test, while others don’t. Complying with DUI testing is a complex issue.

Although typically, police need probable cause that you’ve broken the law to stop your vehicle, sobriety checkpoints are the exception to the rule. If you are stopped at a DUI roadblock, it is legal for police to stop and check all motorists.

Do Drivers Have to Take a Chemical Test or Breathalyzer Test?  

Most states have what is called “implied consent” laws. Motorists who are lawfully arrested for DUI are required to submit to chemical testing by law enforcement. If you don’t submit to the testing, whether or not you are actually under the influence, you will most likely get a license suspension. Should your case go to trial, the prosecution can use your denial as evidence that you thought you were impaired.

Do You Need a Lawyer for a DUI?

DUI laws are complex. Although you may just want to plead guilty to a DUI if it’s your first time, you may want to have a reckless driving lawyer Fairfax, VA trusts review your case before accepting that you are guilty. The consequences of one DUI will follow you through your life, whether you move or not. It could hamper your ability to get a job. Your insurance will likely increase.

When facing a serious charge like a DUI, it’s a good idea to have legal representation to protect your rights and to explain the circumstances of your case.

Thanks to Dave Albo – Attorney for their insight into criminal defense and police determining driver intoxication.