A police officer who stops your car cannot actually know that you’re drunk until they give you some type of test. Field sobriety tests, as inaccurate as they are, often justify an arrest. You may then be given a blood or breath test at the station. This can be used as evidence of intoxication.
That said, the officer has to stop your car to start this entire process. Can they just assume you’re drunk and pull you over, or is there more to it than that?
Looking for the signs
Random stops are a violation of your rights. An officer cannot conduct a stop based on assumptions — such as seeing a young person driving a car right around 2 a.m., when the bars have just closed. They need to see actual signs of intoxication to pull you over. These could include:
- Driving in the wrong lane
- Weaving across the road
- Crossing the centerline
- Accelerating or braking quickly
- Making wide turns
- Nearly getting into an accident
- Running a stop sign
- Stopping for no reason
- Not signalling when turning
- Leaving the headlights off at night
- Driving off of the shoulder
Officers can also stop your car for other reasons, such as a broken taillight or something hanging from your mirror and blocking your view. When they talk to you, they may then claim that they smell alcohol or that you seem drunk. Even so, they need a reason for the stop prior to talking to you, and they are not allowed to simply stop any car they want and check. The only exception to this is when they’re using drunk driving checkpoints that stop every car on the way through.