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What Initial Physical and Behavioral Symptoms Do Police Officers Look For During a DUI Stop?

  • May 26, 2017

    When a driver is pulled over for a driving violation Los Angeles police are on the look out for any sign the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The officer may already be suspicious based on observations that led them to pull a driver over, such as swerving, speeding, or driving too slow. Upon approaching the vehicle, the officer’s suspicions may be further aroused by specific signs they are actively seeking out in the behavior and physical bearing of the driver. The officer will first engage the driver and observe them up close, and they may decide to pursue a full DUI investigation.

    Los Angeles DUI Lawyers are familiar with the signs of intoxication police officers look for and are also familiar with how a driver’s physical appearance and behavior can be misjudged, leading to an investigation and even arrest. An effective DUI lawyer is able to argue in court against the validity of some of these signs and defend a driver against misinterpretations of the officer’s observations.

     

    The Scent of Alcohol

    One of the first things a police officer looks for is the scent of alcohol on the driver’s breath. The odor can be misleading, however, because other passengers may be the source of the smell. If the driver does have the smell of alcohol on them it does not necessarily mean they are under the influence or intoxicated. Different alcohol types produce stronger or weaker odors, and bodies also metabolize different types differently. The smell alone can be deceptive, but often encourages the officer to pursue further questions and look for additional signs.

    Speech

    Police officers will ask a question upon approaching the vehicle to judge the driver’s speech. This includes talking too fast or too slow, slurring words, mumbling, high or low volume, or being “unintelligible.” A sign of intoxication is a lack of control over speech, which can include the physical slurring and the lack of mental clarity and ability to answer the question appropriately. However there are many different reasons a driver may fail have these symptoms that don’t have anything to do with being under the influence. A normal speech pattern may sound slurred or mumbled, a driver may be tired or ill, and a variety of other things, including being nervous for being stopped, can affect how a driver responds to questions.

    Poor Physical Coordination

    If an officer has observed other signs that make them suspect the driver has been drinking, they may ask the driver to exit the car and engage them in a formal exercise, called a field sobriety test. This is the point where a driver may become especially nervous which can lead to a greater risk of unsteadiness, shaking hands, and clumsiness. There are several possible reasons a driver may struggle to exit their vehicle gracefully, including previously sitting for a long time, tripping on their own shoes, or simply being a clumsy person by nature.

    While a police officer is trained to look for certain signs and will include their observations in their arrest report, there are alternative reasons that can explain any of these physical and behavioral symptoms. If you have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence, you need a qualified Los Angeles DUI Attorney on your side and should contact a lawyer as soon as possible to arrange a meeting. Los Angeles DUI Lawyers will consider your unique circumstances and prepare to provide you a thorough defense against the DUI charge

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