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How do police detect allegedly drunk drivers?

Law enforcement officers are constantly patrolling the roadways to enforce the rules of the road. One of the most common things they look out for are people who might be operating their vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. So, how do police identify suspects to pull over for drunk driving offenses?

The primary thing that officers look for is erratic driving behavior. If a police officer notices a driver speeding, swerving, driving too slowly, failing to yield to other vehicles or failing to stop, the driver could be pulled over for further investigation. Just because an individual is pulled over for strange driving behavior, though, does not mean that an arrest will occur. If the diver offers a legitimate excuse for the erratic driving, for example, then he might be let off the hook with just a warning or a minor ticket.

That said, if the officer notices the driver exhibiting signs of inebriation after pulling him or her over, then the officer may choose to perform a breath alcohol test, blood test or field sobriety tests. Signs of inebriation include bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, alcohol on one's breath and an inability to answer questions and respond to directions.

If the situation elevates to the point of a field sobriety test, the driver will be asked to get out of his or her car and perform a series of tests. Those could include reciting the alphabet backwards, walking in a straight line, standing on one foot and other feats that are difficult for intoxicated individuals to perform. A breath test will also likely be ordered to determine if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration in excess of the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

The more a driver knows about drunk driving arrests and drunk driving-related traffic stops, the less likely he or she will be to get stressed during this kind of situation. Stress levels and nervousness could result in a false results during field sobriety tests, so it is important that individuals try to stay calm and clearheaded throughout the incident.

Source: FindLaw, "DUI traffic stop faqs" accessed Feb. 20, 2015

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