Published On: Wed, Aug 31st, 2016

Why DUIs Are More Complex Than You Think

A cop pulls over someone they’ve suspected of driving while drunk. They look drunk, smell drunk, the breath test shows a high BAC. They’re arrested and convicted. Case closed. Right?

A DUI case is nowhere near as simple as that. Before an arrest is even made, this is what goes down.

squad car

What the police look for on the road

So before a cop has even pulled someone over, they need a good reason to do so, right? When people think about these sorts of scenarios, they tend to think about drivers who are clearly doing something wrong. I mean really wrong. We think about people driving in the wrong lane, or swerving to and fro, or turning illegally.

But when the police are out looking for drunk drivers, there are a lot of little signs they’re told to look out for. These signs will actually determine whether or not a cop had “probable cause” to pull someone over on such a suspicion. There are signs such a using a wide radius while turning, braking for no reason, and following other cars too closely. Speeding, however, is not behavior deemed to suggest that the driver is drunk. It cannot be used as a reason for the police to pull you over for suspected drink driving. Why? Because too many sober people speed!

The right to a lawyer?

A lot of people think that the desire for a lawyer should only begin if someone is charged with drinking while driving. But that’s because people look at a roadside stop in the wrong light. Whenever you’re speaking to the police, your words and potential criminality are being judged.

Now, it’s true that you don’t have a constitutionally-given right to a lawyer before an arrest. However, you’re not actually, legally, required to answer any questions that the cop asks when you’re pulled over. You’re well within your right to ask for a lawyer immediately after being stopped, while having the cop note down the time of your request. Give them any documents they request, but you are within your rights to say and do nothing more. Of course, anything beyond that will need to be handled by a DUI lawyer.

How the police assess that you’re drunk – and the arguments against them

If you agree to field sobriety tests, the cop will do several things in order to assess whether or not you’re drunk. The most famous of these would be a breath test. Problem: breath tests aren’t exactly known for their high accuracy. There’s a long history of false positives when it comes to the breath test, so a high BAC count according to a breath test may not hold up in court.

What are the other signs they look for? Usually, they look for a flushed face, slurred speech, the smell of alcohol, and red eyes. Many would say these are obvious telltale signs. But are they? They could all be argued against. How does the cop know your face is flushed if they haven’t seen your “unflushed” face? How do they know that slurred speech isn’t your usual way of talking? That smell of alcohol could be the smell of alcohol-free drinks, which basically smell the same as their alcohol alternatives. Your eyes could be the result of irritation or a lack of sleep.