One of the most important factors in any DUI traffic stop is that the police must have a reason to make that stop in the first place. A stop can never be random. They must have either reasonable suspicion that they found an intoxicated driver or they must at least have seen that driver break a traffic law. For instance, they could see the driver roll through a red light and then pull them over for that infraction, only making a DUI arrest after they smell alcohol on them when talking and give them a breath test.
What they cannot do is pull people over at a certain time of day or target certain types of drivers, making random stops and looking for those who are intoxicated.
So, what types of signs do police look for? Below are a few things they may observe that tell them a driver could be under the influence, potentially leading to a traffic stop:
- Cars that slow down erratically or drivers who hit the brakes for no apparent reason
- Drivers who go far too slowly
- Cars that are always drifting within the lane or even out of the lane
- Drivers who get involved in a near miss, such as almost backing into another car in a parking lot
- Drivers who lean forward to sit as close to the front window as possible while driving
- Drivers who appear to have open containers in the vehicle with them
- Cars that make extra-wide turns when there is no need to do so
- Drivers who have slow reaction times, such as taking too long to accelerate after the light turns green
- Cars that actively go down the wrong side of the road
- Cars that make illegal turns
- Drivers who use the wrong traffic signal when turning, or who make sudden turns without slowing down and signaling property
These things alone do not mean that a driver was drunk for certain. For instance, someone with a slow reaction time could have tried to change the radio station or talk to their kids while sitting at the red light.
The key, though, is that these types of activities do give the police officers justification to make a traffic stop. After they do, then they can use other methods to determine if the driver is under the influence or not.
Your legal defense options
If you get arrested on DUI charges, especially if you think that the police had no reason to make the stop and carried it out illegally, it is important for you to understand what legal defense options you have.