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What does a legal DUI stop entail?

Posted by Bulldog Law | Jan 19, 2023 | 0 Comments

Facing a DUI charge isn't something to take lightly. You might be frustrated or trying to think of all the ways you should have done something differently leading up to your charge. But instead of dwelling on it, it's essential to reflect on what happened and compare it to what should happen at a standard DUI stop.

Reasonable suspicion

First, it's crucial to consider that a DUI stop usually doesn't happen out of the blue. Instead, an officer needs to have a reason, the same way an officer stops a driver for speeding only after they detect they are driving above the posted speed limit. So, what are the signs an officer must track before flashing lights and alarming sirens to flag down a driver they believe is driving under the influence? Often, it comes in the form of dangerous and illegal driving choices, including driving extremely fast or slow, swerving lanes, braking when not necessary and waiting to hit the brakes until the last second.

It's worth noting that DUI checkpoints are legal in California, so a close-to-random DUI stop is possible. But in both traditional and checkpoint DUI stops, police officers must be able to prove probable cause or evidence that the driver is indeed impaired. Taking in body language cues and smelling or seeking out alcohol or drug paraphernalia is some evidence commonly compiled. Collecting more proof typically requires testing.

Sobriety tests

When building a case for arrest, a police officer will conduct several tests to prove the driver was under the influence at the time of the stop. This can include a standard breathalyzer test to confirm the driver's blood alcohol level is above the legal limit. This can also include a variety of field sobriety tests done outside one's vehicle. There are three main ones:

  • Walk-and-turn test: A driver must take nine heel-to-toe steps forward, a one-foot step to turn and nine heel-to-toe steps back to where they started.
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus: A police officer will move a pen or flashlight around a driver's face and ask them to follow it with their eyes.
  • One-leg stand: While standing on one leg, a driver must count, starting at 1,001, for a time determined by the officer.

Even with the strict set of rules law enforcement officials must follow before arresting an individual, there can still be flaws in an arrest. An officer may stop someone at random, outside a DUI checkpoint and without reasonable suspicion. While compiling evidence,  a breathalyzer test can be inaccurate, or the officer may give unclear field sobriety test instructions. Every case is unique, so it's worth working with a legal professional to craft a strategic defense path.

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