Asserting Your Rights And Protecting Your Future

What should you know about drunk driving stops?

On Behalf of | Mar 19, 2024 | DUI

Drunk driving stops help police officers to keep impaired drivers off the road. However, it’s possible that law enforcement officers may initiate a traffic stop due to suspected impairment when a driver isn’t actually impaired.

Understanding the basics of suspected drunk driving stops can help people who are having to go through them to better protect their rights.

Reasonable suspicion for the stop

Law enforcement officers must have a valid reason to believe that a driver is operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs before initiating a traffic stop. This reasonable suspicion can be based on a variety of observations, such as erratic driving behavior, violations of traffic laws or signs of impairment observed through the vehicle’s windows.

Reasonable suspicion is crucial because it justifies an officer’s decision to pull over a vehicle and conduct further investigation. Without it, any evidence gathered during the stop could be challenged in court.

Field sobriety tests

Once a vehicle has been stopped on suspicion of drunk driving, officers often conduct standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) to assess the driver’s physical and cognitive abilities. These tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, the walk-and-turn test and the one-leg stand test. While SFSTs can provide evidence of impairment, their reliability can be subject to various factors, including the driver’s physical condition, nervousness or the environment in which the tests are conducted.

Blood-alcohol concentration tests

The most definitive assessment of a driver’s impairment due to alcohol is through blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) tests. These tests measure the amount of alcohol in a driver’s bloodstream and can be conducted using breath, blood or urine samples. The results of a BAC test may provide a basis for probable cause so the police officer can arrest an allegedly impaired driver.

Anyone in the midst of a drunk driving stop should ensure they understand their rights throughout the process. If it results in an arrest, seeking legal assistance is a good idea so a defendant can explore their options for crafting a solid defense strategy.