How the Police Spots Drunk Drivers

On Behalf of | Jun 8, 2020 | DUI

For the police to pull someone over for a DUI, they must have “reasonable suspicion” that the driver is intoxicated. To establish reasonable suspicion, the driver must either commit a traffic violation (e.g. speeding, running a red light or stop sign, or driving without the lights on at night) or drive in a manner that makes a reasonable person believe the driver is under the influence.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) created a list of certain “cues” to help law enforcement officials determine if a motorist is drunk driving. These cues were established after extensive research and study with the help of officers from all over the United States.

The following are the four main cues that indicate a drunk driver: 

  • Issues staying within a lane – Drunk drivers find it difficult to maintain a proper lane position. Common examples include swerving, weaving through lanes, making extremely wide turns, or nearly colliding with another vehicle or an object.

  • Problems with acceleration and stopping – Drunk drivers also have a hard time gauging speed and distance while behind the wheel. Common examples include braking too soon or too late, speeding for no reason, or driving too slowly.

  • Issues with judgment – While drivers are required to make multiple decisions simultaneously while operating a vehicle to practice safe driving, drunk motorists tend to take more risks and drive more recklessly. Common examples include making illegal and unsafe turns, following another vehicle too closely (e.g. tailgating), driving off-road.

  • Problems with vigilance – Drivers must also remain aware of traffic signs and signals. Yet, drunk drivers tend to respond to such signs and laws slowly or not at all. Common examples include running a red light, sitting at a green light, no headlights when it’s dark, or failure to use a turn signal.

Once an officer establishes reasonable suspicion and pulls the driver over, probable cause must be established to make a DUI arrest. Evidence that provides probable cause includes the smell of alcohol coming from the driver or inside the vehicle, the driver’s delayed movements or responses, the driver’s slurred speech, and the driver’s results from a preliminary breath test or field sobriety test.

On the other, the police cannot pull someone over just because they have a “hunch” or a “gut feeling.” If an officer makes a traffic stop or an arrest without first establishing reasonable suspicion, the driver and his/her lawyer can have the charges dropped and the entire case dismissed.

If you have been arrested for a DUI in Scranton or Lackawanna County, PA, contact the Law Offices of William D. Thompson today and schedule a free initial consultation.