A lot of DUI cases start from just a normal routine traffic stop where somebody has defective equipment like a taillight that’s out or they don’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign or they’re speeding or something like that.
How do police actually decide who to pull over when they suspect DUI, or do they even typically suspect it until they get up to the car?
So, a lot of the time, it starts without the police suspecting DUI. Then after they approach the driver and start talking to them, they become suspicious and investigate further.
Other times, the stop occurs once the officer does follow the vehicle for a while and suspects DUI. Usually, in that case, there’s some kind of odd driving such as slowing down and speeding up, weaving, crossing a lane, or maybe getting a call from 911 from another motorist indicating that somebody is driving poorly or they suspect DUI. There are a lot of different ways that the stop can be initiated, but for the most part, the officer is supposed to observe the occurrence of a civil infraction. In other words, they are supposed to witness with their own eyes something happening that would give them the right to stop your vehicle for a civil infraction. The exception to that is if there is an accident or somebody went off the road and the officer is stopping for assistance.
Once you’ve been pulled over, what are the police looking for that will initiate the DUI investigation?
If you read the police reports, typically what they’re going to report is that they smelled alcohol – that’s a big one. The second thing would be if they think the person’s eyes are bloodshot and watery, or if they think they have slurred speech, or if they have trouble finding their driver’s license and proof of insurance and registration and producing that. They look for behavior or physical signs that are consistent with someone being drunk in order to then pursue the DUI investigation.
Do police have the right to ask you to step out of the car? Can you refuse? How does that typically play out?
They have the right to ask you to step out of the car and probably 95 out of 100 people will do so voluntarily, and then that’s consensual. If the person refuses, in some situations, the officer isn’t going to know quite how to handle that and they will usually react negatively towards the suspect. As soon as you start refusing their commands, they get more and more aggressive in their investigations. Depending on the circumstances and depending on the officer, they could potentially trump up some charges like obstruction of justice or impeding an investigation if you refuse to get out of the car. Certainly you don’t have to perform the field sobriety tests, which is what they want you to do when you get out of the car, so generally my advice would be to comply with their demands. If they order you to get out of the car, comply with their order to get out of the car, but then do not comply with their request to do the field sobriety tests.
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