The Experience To Get You Through This

Elements of a drunk driving traffic stop

On Behalf of | Jun 20, 2024 | Drunk Driving Defense

Being stopped for suspected drunk driving can be a stressful experience. If you’re stopped, law enforcement officers are required to follow specific procedures to determine whether you’re impaired. These approaches typically include observation, field sobriety tests and chemical tests.

During a drunk driving stop, an officer must adhere to legal standards to ensure that the stop is valid. From the moment an officer signals you to pull over, every step they take is designed to gather evidence and assess whether you’re impaired.

Reasonable suspicion

The process begins with the initial traffic stop, which must be based on reasonable suspicion that a driver is violating traffic laws or is impaired. Common reasons for a stop include erratic driving, speeding, weaving between lanes or running a red light. Once an officer has a valid reason to stop your vehicle, they will signal you to pull over safely.

Interview and observations

After your vehicle is stopped, the officer will look for signs of impairment. These signs can include the smell of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and fumbling with documentation. The officer may also ask you questions to gauge your coherence and responsiveness. Any incriminating observations can contribute to establishing probable cause for further investigation. Remember, you have the right to remain silent during these interactions.

Field sobriety tests

If the officer suspects impairment, they will likely conduct field sobriety tests. There are three standardized tests used to assess your physical and cognitive abilities. These tests include:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus: Observes your eyes’ movement while following a stimulus
  • Walk and turn: Evaluates balance and the ability to follow instructions
  • One-leg stand: Tests balance and concentration

Performance on these tests may provide evidence of impairment that leads the officer to look deeper into your condition.

Chemical tests

To confirm impairment, the officer may administer a chemical test, such as a breath test, to measure your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). In some cases, blood or urine tests may be conducted, especially if drugs are suspected. Refusing a chemical test can result in immediate consequences, such as license suspension, due to implied consent laws.

If you’re facing drunk driving charges after being pulled over by police officers, you should learn about your defense options immediately. Given all that is at stake, a DIY is ill-advised.

FindLaw Network

Serving New Hampshire & Massachusetts
Since 1992