Maybe you were hanging out with friends or catching the last of the big game at your local bar, and you had one too many. You don’t feel “drunk,” and think you can make it home safely. Unfortunately, driving “buzzed” and driving drunk is the same thing in the eyes of the law. Before you get behind the wheel, know how the police detect a DUI, how they charge drunk drivers, and what kind of punishments you can expect for operating a vehicle under the influence.
There are a number of signs that police keep a lookout for, which may indicate a person is operating their vehicle under the influence. These include, but are not limited to:
Despite popular belief, speeding is not really a red flag for drunk driving, as it indicates a person has quicker reflexes and judgment time.
Once the police have probable cause for stopping you, they will look for further evidence that you’re intoxicated, which include the following:
A police officer may use several tactics to determine if you’re under the influence of alcohol or any other substance, including:
If a police officer suspects you have too much alcohol or another drug in your system, they may require you to complete a series of tasks. Examples include standing on one leg, walking in a line heel to toe, or repeating a set of numbers or phrases. If you fail, they might detain you or ask you to take another chemical test. From a legal standpoint, it’s in your best interest to respectfully decline all field sobriety testing, as this carries no penalties. If you refuse a field sobriety test after you are arrested, you can get your driver’s license suspended for a substantial amount of time and you should consult with a field sobriety testing attorney.
Officers may also ask you to submit to a chemical test that measures the concentration of alcohol in your bloodstream. This can be taken directly from your blood, or more usually, by a mathematical calculation from your breath. If you test above a .08, you are above the legal limit and may be charged with drunk driving. You can refuse to take a breathalyzer or other chemical test during a stop, but an “implied consent” law says that this refusal may result in your driver’s license automatically being suspended. Remember, if your case makes it to trial, a jury may still see your refusal as an admission of guilt.
In today’s world of scientific testing, it can be difficult to successfully defend a DUI case. If the police don’t have any physical evidence against you (such as a BAC test), a lawyer may be able to help you negotiate down to a “wet reckless” charge. This does not have the same stigma as a DUI or DWI, but often carries similar penalties. If you’re unsure of how to proceed, you can always take advantage of an experienced criminal defense lawyer’s free consultation service.