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What do the police look for when they conduct a DWI stop?

On Behalf of | Jun 6, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Your heart can skip a beat when you see red and blue flashing lights in your rearview mirror. And while the thought of merely being pulled over can leave you on edge, your anxiety can be heightened when the police have stopped you on suspicion of drunk driving. After all, a DWI arrest and subsequent conviction can wreak havoc on your life, negatively impacting everything from your driving privileges to your job, your career, your time with your children, and even your freedom.

So, when faced with drunk driving allegations, it’s crucial to understand what law enforcement officers look for when they suspect DWI. That way you can better identify any errors that they made during their investigation and can target your criminal defense strategy.

How police officers try to spot signs of drunk driving

When the police spot erratic driving, they’re bound to stop you with a suspicion that you’re under the influence. To try to confirm that suspicion, they’ll look for the following:

  • Poor coordination and diminished motor skills: These include telltale signs of intoxication, including loss of balance, an inability to follow instructions, slurred speech, and unsteady and uncoordinated movements. Although some of these characteristics can be drawn out through field sobriety tests, the police might be able to observe them simply through their interactions with you.
  • Glazed or bloodshot eyes: Intoxication by alcohol or drugs can impact the appearance of your eyes. They might be glassy, or they may be bloodshot. Either way, the police are going to look you in the eye to see if they can identify these characteristics or if you struggle to maintain eye contact and focus, both of which are hallmark features of intoxication.
  • The smell of alcohol: The police will be in close enough contact with you and your vehicle to tell if you or your car smell like alcohol. If they detect the scent of alcohol, then they’re probably going to request field sobriety testing, and they’ll note in their report that the smell of alcohol supported any arrest that they make.
  • Signs of nervousness: Nearly everyone gets nervous when they’re stopped by the police. But when DWI charges could be on the line, many drivers become unusually nervous or even combative with officers. Sweaty hands and face, jitteriness, and an unwillingness to cooperate could all be used against you when the police try to build a DWI case.
  • Failure on a field sobriety test: Of course, if the police suspect that you’re intoxicated, then they’re bound to conduct field sobriety tests. If you don’t follow instructions or fail these tests, then law enforcement will likely use your behavior to support an arrest.
  • Admissions: If the police suspect drunk driving, they’re going to ask you about it. If you give them any verbal indications that you’ve been drinking, then they’ll be more likely to further their DWI investigation, which could lead to them gathering more evidence against you.

Fight back against the DWI charges levied against you

A DWI charge carries the potential for serious penalties. You want to avoid those as much as possible. That’s why now is the time to start building your DWI defense. The approach that you take is going to depend on the unique facts of your case, which is why you have to diligently analyze your set of circumstances to find where the prosecution’s case is vulnerable. By doing so and using the law to your advantage, you’ll hopefully be able to beat the prosecution and protect your future.