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What Do Police Look for to Spot DUIs?

By San Diego Attorney on April 5, 2023

Sobriety check point takes up a street with police cars.

Any time a police officer pulls a driver over or responds to the scene of an accident, they’re conducting an investigation. One of the main things they’re looking for is signs of driver intoxication.

When you get pulled over, the officer is scrutinizing everything you say and do. You’ll always want to be polite when talking to an officer who pulls you over, but you don’t have to tell them anything that could incriminate you and you aren’t required to take a roadside sobriety test.

What Is Probable Cause for Pulling Someone Over?

An officer isn’t allowed to pull you over for no reason. They must have probable cause, which means you matched the description of a suspect they were pursuing, they saw you commit a driving infraction, or something in your behavior created reasonable suspicion that a criminal offense had occurred.

Your attorney may be able to get your DUI case dismissed if they are able to prove that you were pulled over without probable cause. In the past, it was easier for arresting officers to pretend that a driver swerved or made an erratic turn. But police dashcams and the growing prevalence of surveillance cameras make it more difficult for officers to justify pulling someone over for no reason.

Irregular driving behavior that may be presented by an officer as probable cause includes:

  • Weaving or swerving
  • Crossing the center line
  • Making a wide turn
  • Jerky motions
  • Violating traffic laws
  • Stopping for no reason
  • Nearly hitting a vehicle or object
  • Stopping too late or soon at a traffic light
  • Headlights turned off at night
  • Slow to respond to a green light
  • Failure to notice an officer’s emergency lights
  • Following a vehicle too closely
  • Unsafe lane changes
  • Driving off the roadway
  • Arguing with passengers
  • Attempting to hide something inside the vehicle
  • Throwing an object out the window

How to Respond When You Get Pulled Over

A police officer is probably going to ask you a lot of questions when they pull you over. But you are only required to show the officer your driver’s license and registration to demonstrate who you are and who owns the vehicle. Keeping that in mind, it’s always a good idea to be courteous when interacting with a police officer.

You may feel obligated to answer questions like “Have you been drinking tonight?” or “Where are you coming from?” But’s it perfectly acceptable to say, “I’d rather not answer that question.”

There is no reason for you to submit to a field sobriety test where they ask you to get out of the car and perform several tasks, such as walking in a straight line or standing on one leg. These tasks are not accurate indicators of intoxication, and there are many legitimate reasons why someone might be unable to perform them.

According to California’s “implied consent” laws, you are required to take a breathalyzer test if the officer requests it, and there may be serious legal consequences if you refuse.

Signs of Intoxication

During a traffic stop or after an accident, the police officer tries to detect any indication that a driver may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Their impression of your behavior and physical condition will be recorded in the police report, and it could be used as evidence against you in court.

Police officers are looking for the following signs of intoxication:

  • Slurred speech
  • Red eyes
  • Talking loud
  • Drowsiness
  • Slowed reaction
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Inability to walk straight
  • Difficulty standing up
  • Lack of coordination
  • Disoriented, repetitive, or irrational statements
  • Swaying, staggering, or stumbling
  • The scent of alcohol on your breath

Were You Charged with DUI in San Diego?

You may be facing severe legal penalties, including the loss of driving privileges and serious jail time. Our team at jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys has over 30 years of experience successfully defending clients in DUI cases.

Give our San Diego DUI defense lawyer a call today at (760) 630-2000 to learn more. We’re always on your side at jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys.

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