Signs of Impairment: How Police Officers Make DUI Arrest

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense that poses significant risks to the safety of individuals on the road. To combat this problem, law enforcement agencies have developed standardized procedures for identifying and apprehending impaired drivers. In this blog post, we will explore the signs of impairment that police officers look for when making DUI arrests and the techniques they use to keep our roads safe.

Traffic Violations

One of the most common ways police officers initially identify potentially impaired drivers is through traffic violations. Swerving, erratic lane changes, speeding, and running red lights are all indicative of potential impairment. When an officer observes such behavior, they have reason to suspect that the driver may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Odor of Alcohol or Drugs

When an officer pulls over a driver for a traffic violation or suspicion of DUI, they may approach the vehicle and check for the odor of alcohol or drugs. The scent of alcohol on a driver's breath, the interior of the vehicle, or on their person is a strong indicator of impairment. Additionally, the smell of marijuana or other illicit substances can also lead to further suspicion.

Bloodshot or Glassy Eyes

Bloodshot or glassy eyes are often telltale signs of impairment. Alcohol and certain drugs can cause bloodshot eyes, as they can affect blood vessels and make the eyes appear red or bloodshot. When a police officer observes these characteristics, it raises concerns about the driver's sobriety.

Slurred Speech

Slurred speech is a common sign of alcohol or drug impairment. Impaired drivers often struggle to articulate their words clearly, and their speech may be slow or incoherent. Police officers are trained to listen for these signs when interacting with motorists during a traffic stop.

Lack of Coordination

Impaired individuals may exhibit poor coordination, making it difficult for them to perform simple physical tasks. Police officers may ask the driver to step out of the vehicle to perform field sobriety tests, such as the walk-and-turn test or the one-leg stand test, which assess their ability to maintain balance and coordination.

Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests are standardized assessments used by police officers to gauge a driver's level of impairment. Three of the most common field sobriety tests include:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): The officer uses a pen or flashlight to observe the driver's eye movements as they track a slowly moving object horizontally. Nystagmus, or involuntary eye jerking, is more pronounced in impaired individuals.
  • Walk-and-Turn Test: The driver is asked to take nine steps heel-to-toe along a straight line, pivot, and return the same way. An impaired individual may have difficulty maintaining balance, stepping off the line, or miscounting steps.
  • One-Leg Stand Test: In this test, the driver is asked to stand on one leg for 30 seconds while counting. Impaired individuals may sway, use their arms for balance, or put their foot down.

If a driver fails these tests or shows significant signs of impairment, an officer may have probable cause to make a DUI arrest.

Breathalyzer Test

After observing the signs of impairment and conducting field sobriety tests, the police officer may request a breathalyzer test. A breathalyzer measures the driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) by analyzing their breath. Most jurisdictions have legal BAC limits, and if a driver's BAC exceeds the legal limit, they can be arrested for DUI.

Blood or Urine Tests

In some cases, a breathalyzer may not be available or the officer may suspect that the driver is impaired by drugs rather than alcohol. In such instances, the officer may request a blood or urine test to determine the presence of drugs or their metabolites. These tests are usually conducted at a medical facility, and the results can take some time to process.

Refusal to Submit to Testing

Refusing to take a breathalyzer, blood, or urine test can lead to legal consequences in many jurisdictions. Such refusals can result in automatic driver's license suspension, fines, and other penalties. Police officers are trained to inform drivers of the potential consequences of refusing a test, and they may use a refusal as evidence of guilt.

Verbal Admissions

Sometimes, drivers will voluntarily admit to consuming alcohol or drugs, which can be a strong indication of impairment. Officers may use these statements as evidence during a DUI arrest.

Observations in the Vehicle

When an officer has pulled a driver over, they may make additional observations inside the vehicle that suggest impairment. Open containers of alcohol, drug paraphernalia, or drugs in plain sight can all provide further justification for a DUI arrest.

Erratic Driving Patterns

In addition to immediate traffic violations, erratic driving patterns can signal impairment. These patterns can include driving at extremely low speeds, weaving in and out of lanes, tailgating, and making abrupt or illegal turns. Erratic driving is a significant concern as it poses a risk to both the impaired driver and others on the road.

Physical Appearance

The physical appearance of the driver can also provide important clues to officers. Individuals who are impaired may exhibit physical symptoms such as flushed or pale skin, excessive sweating, and trembling. Officers may also notice drug paraphernalia or visible signs of recent drug use, such as track marks on the arms.

In conclusion, recognizing the signs of impairment that police officers look for during a DUI arrest is vital for promoting responsible driving and preventing accidents. By being aware of these signs and understanding their implications, you can make informed decisions to keep yourself and others safe on the road.

At Braden & Tucci, we understand the seriousness of DUI offenses and the impact they can have on your life. Our experienced attorneys specialize in DUI defense and can provide you with the guidance and support you need.

If you are facing a DUI charge in Orange County, contact us today to let us defend you.