How A Law Enforcement Officer Perceives A DUI Arrest
Being pulled over by a police officer can be a highly intimidating experience even if the driver feels that he or she has nothing to worry about. The driver then proceeds to ask themselves a litany of internal questions: Was I speeding? Is my tail light not working? Was I swerving? Having had something to drink before getting behind the wheel intensifies the internal questioning, can I pass a Breathalyzer? Did I drink too much? What if he asks me to do field sobriety tests? That being the case, most drivers fail to look at a DUI stop or arrest from the perspective of the police officer. Let’s take a peek into the mind of a police officer as they pull someone over for suspicion of a traffic offense or DUI.
A law enforcement officer cannot legally pull a driver over for no apparent reason. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of USA prohibits unlawful search and seizure without a warrant or probable cause and traffic stops do fall within that jurisdiction. So if a cop pulls you over, it means they have seen something suspicious with your vehicle or with your behavior that gives him probable cause to investigate further. However an exception to this rule would be a DUI checkpoint or a police roadblock in which law enforcement pulls over everyone equally. Probable cause to pull a driver over might be anything from a broken tail light to forgetting to turn on your signal before making a turn, or failing to stop at a stop sign.
Whatever the case, the officer notices something and generally tells you why he pulled you over when he comes to talk to you. When an officer approaches your vehicle, they will typically begin by asking you to produce your driver’s license and vehicle registration, which they will check against the registration database. Even if the officer didn’t notice erratic driving, they are trained to observe the driver’s behavior for possible signs of impairment. These signs may include:
- Fumbling for paperwork
- Fumbling with keys
- Showing difficulty in comprehending the officer’s instructions
- Flushed face or bloodshot eyes
- Aggressive responses
- Slurred speech
- Changing the story
- Slow responses
- Visible open or empty bottles or cans in the car
- Smell of alcohol
- Signs of drug paraphernalia
The officer may then ask you to step out of the vehicle where they will observe your coordination and behavior, even if they do not ask you to perform roadside tests. They will look to see if you have difficulty exiting the vehicle, if you lean on the car when you stand up, if you are swaying or having problems with balance and if you are focused or not. If the officer suspects at any time that you have been drinking, they will ask the driver if they have had anything to drink. If the officer is not satisfied with your answer, they may ask the diver to take a field sobriety test or to submit to a Breathalyzer test. The goal is to confirm their suspicions and provide sufficient probable cause to arrest you for DUI.
From the traffic stop through the investigation and the arrest, the entire procedure is designed to catch and arrest legitimate DUI offenders. However, it may ensnare people who either have had nothing to drink or were well below the legal BAC limit. Officers often misinterpret behavior and Breathalyzer tests can yield false positives. Understanding the officer’s rationale and point of view during the traffic stop helps to determine whether the officer had legitimate probable cause and whether certain evidence is admissible in court and other factors that a competent DUI Defense attorney may use to prove your innocence. If you are involved in a DUI case in Florida it is critical that you contact Attorney Barbara Kibbey Wagner to get the best possible outcome in your DUI case