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Signs of Driving Under the Influence

How do police know when to pull someone over on suspicion of drunk driving? Many times police will stop people without any suspicion at all but will pull them over for speeding or some other moving violation, hoping that they can develop enough grounds during the stop to arrest them for DUI and require them to take a breathalyzer. Without witnessing a moving violation or a mechanical defect like a broken taillight, the police need a reasonable, articulable suspicion that a person is driving under the influence before they can pull them over. See below to find out what signs of DUI the police look for on the road and when they stop a person. If you have been arrested for DWI, DWAI or another drunk driving offense in Long Island, call 888-DUI-LAWYER to review your case with experienced and dedicated New York DUI defense lawyers.

NHTSA’s DWI Detection Guide

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has published a DWI Detection Guide that lists 24 cues or signs of DUI, broken out into four broad categories. Law enforcement agencies across the country, including police in Long Island, rely on the cues listed in the NHTSA guide when observing driving behavior. The more cues observed by the police, the greater their suspicion that the person is DUI, but even spotting just one cue may be enough to give the police reason to pull someone over.

Here is a look at the four NHTSA categories, along with the main driving behaviors for each category. As you read these, think about how many of these cues could be signs of fatigue or a momentary distraction just as much as signs of DUI:

  • Staying in the lane – weaving, drifting, swerving, nearly hitting another car or object, straddling a lane divider, making a wide turn

  • Speed and braking – stopping too far ahead of the intersection, stopping too hard or too quickly, inconsistent speed, driving too fast or too slow

  • Attention and vigilance – missing a stop sign or signal light, failing to go when the light changes or sitting at a stop sign too long, failing to signal, driving without headlights at night, driving the wrong way, being slow to respond when signaled to pull over

  • Judgment and response – overcorrecting, under-correcting, veering or a sudden jerk of the wheel, following too close, illegal or unsafe turn or lane change, turn is too sharp or too wide, stopping “inappropriately” when being pulled over

Additionally, the NHTSA guide provides signs for police officers to look for after they have stopped the vehicle, such as:

  • The smell of alcohol in the car or on the breath
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow response to questions
  • Fumbling with a wallet or glove compartment to retrieve license or registration

Observing these signs may lead an officer to request the driver to complete a series of field sobriety tests, designed to give the officer cause to make an arrest.

Maybe Signs of DUI, and Maybe Not

Despite the official look of the NHTSA DWI detection guide, remember that these cues are all dependent on the subjective observation of an individual police officer. Some officers are better trained and more experienced than others, but all are looking for excuses to pull someone over and subject them to roadside tests so they can establish grounds for an arrest and require a breathalyzer test.

Of the 24 cues on the NHTSA list, some predict DWI only 35% of the time. The probability increases as multiple cues are identified, but these are only probabilities. Some cues, such as swerving, are given a probability of DWI greater than 70% of the time, yet swerving can be just as easily caused by reaching down or across the seat to retrieve an object. Don’t forget that no matter how strong law enforcement thinks their case is, you likely have defenses to DUI available to you, and you have every right to put forward those defenses when challenging your DWI arrest.

Call 888-DUI-LAWYERS in Long Island for Strong, Effective DUI Defense

If you have been arrested for DWI, DWAI or other New York drunk driving offenses, call 888-DUI-LAWYER for immediate assistance from a team of dedicated and experienced Long Island DUI defense lawyers.

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