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3 things to know about drunk driving traffic stops

On Behalf of | May 24, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Drunk driving traffic stops are a stressful experience for anyone who is being pulled over. Even if an individual who is under suspicion isn’t impaired or hasn’t had any alcohol, these stops can be difficult to navigate.

An understanding of what to expect – and the standards to which officers are held – during a stop can help motorists to manage these kinds of stops more effectively.

Reasonable suspicion

In order to conduct a traffic stop, an officer needs to have reasonable suspicion that a crime was committed, is being committed or will be committed by the individual in the vehicle. In the case of drunk driving, this can be things like seeing the vehicle swerve or the driver not stopping at a red light. Other situations that might provide reasonable suspicion include a vehicle stopping without cause or almost hitting objects on the roadside.

Field sobriety tests

Once the vehicle is stopped, the officer will try to determine what’s going on. They have a variety of tools at their disposal, including field sobriety tests. There are many of these, but only three – one-leg stand, walk-and-turn and horizontal gaze nystagmus – are admissible in court because they’re endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Others may provide clues about impairment, but they aren’t standardized and can’t be used in court.

Preliminary alcohol screening

Another way they can determine impairment is through a preliminary alcohol screening. While this can provide an idea of the person’s blood alcohol concentration, these results aren’t admissible in court. If impairment is suspected, the individual will need to have a more reliable chemical test, such as a breath test on a stationary breath test machine, or a blood or urine test.

Fighting a drunk driving charge can be a complex challenge, so determining how to set up a defense strategy can be difficult. Getting legal assistance may help individuals in this position evaluate their options and determine how to answer the charges. Because some of the options might be time-sensitive, it’s best to review the them as soon as possible after a charge is levied.