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Behaviors that Police Use as Proof of Drunken Driving

how police prove drinking and driving in Louisville

Each year, thousands of individuals are arrested and charged for DUI in Kentucky. Law enforcement officials throughout the Commonwealth heavily patrol the roadways – especially at night and especially near bars, restaurants, and other establishments that serve alcohol. The police look for various signs of intoxication that can be used as reasonable suspicion to pull over a motorist. Once a driver is stopped, they look for signs to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest.

Before the DUI Stop

There are several cues a law enforcement officer will look for among drivers to establish a reason to pull them over on suspicion of drunk driving. The police do not make these cues public, but guidelines have been published by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Some of the cues listed in the NHTSA guide that police use as proof of drunken driving before a DUI stop include:

  • Problems with Speed and Braking: Driving too fast or too slow, wide variances in speed, sudden acceleration or deceleration for no valid reason, and making quick, jerky, or awkward stops.
  • Difficulty Maintaining Proper Lane Position: Swerving, drifting, weaving in and out of lanes, straddling the line of a lane, turning at a very wide radius, and coming dangerously close to striking another vehicle or object.
  • Problems with Judgment: Following other vehicles too closely, making unsafe or improper lane changes, making illegal or improper turns, and unusual or inappropriate behavior.
  • Vigilance Problems: Responding slowly to traffic signals or police officer signals, driving the wrong way down a one-way road, driving without headlights on after dark, and failure to signal or signals that are not consistent with the driver’s actions.

After the DUI Stop

Once a driver has been pulled over, the officer will look for additional signs of chemical impairment. These may include:

  • Difficulty with the vehicle’s controls (e.g., headlights, gears, hazards, etc.);
  • Fumbling around to locate their driver’s license and registration;
  • Difficulty getting out of the vehicle;
  • Slurred speech;
  • Nervousness speaking to the officer;
  • Asking the officer to repeat questions or taking too long to answer a question;
  • Odor of alcoholic beverages coming from the driver.

The behaviors mentioned above that police use as proof of drunken driving do not necessarily “prove” that a motorist was driving drunk. One or more of these behaviors might provide reasonable suspicion to stop a driver, but there could also be an innocent explanation for any of them.

Oftentimes, however, when a police officer pulls a driver over on suspicion of DUI, they already believe that the driver is legally intoxicated. For this reason, they are usually looking for something to confirm what they already suspect. This means they are not likely to treat you fairly during the DUI stop.

This is important to keep in mind when they ask questions such as “have you been drinking tonight?” and “how much have you had to drink?” It is best not to answer these questions.  Instead, politely decline to answer any of these types of questions and let them know you want to speak to your lawyer first.

Another thing to keep in mind is that field sobriety tests (e.g., “walking a straight line”) are not usually administered fairly either. And while the officer may imply that it is in your best interests to submit to an FST or even that you are required to take one, there is generally no good reason for you to do so. The main purpose for a field sobriety test is to help the officer establish probable cause for a DUI arrest.

Arrested for DUI in Kentucky? Contact Attorney Ron Aslam for Legal Help

There are numerous behaviors both before and after a DUI stop that police use as proof for drunken driving. However, being arrested for DUI does not automatically mean you will be convicted. There are various legal mistakes officers often make that could open the door to having your charges reduced or dismissed altogether. An experienced criminal defense attorney can thoroughly examine your case to uncover any and all weaknesses that could potentially be used to help you secure a more favorable outcome. 

Attorney Ron Aslam is a former prosecutor who has practiced DUI defense in the Louisville area for many years. Ron is a member of the National College for DUI Defense, the DUI Defense Lawyers Association, and several other highly respected legal associations. He has in-depth knowledge of this area of the law and a proven track record successfully defending clients who have been charged with drunk driving.

To schedule an initial consultation with Attorney Ron Aslam, call us today at 502-581-1676. You may also message us through our web contact form or stop by our Louisville office in person at your convenience.