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Traffic Stops and DUI Charges

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impaired driving, Arlington Heights DUI defense attorney“The police officer pulled me over for no reason,” is one a common statement which many attorneys hear from their clients who may subsequently be facing DUI charges after a traffic stop. While many people may feel that law enforcement just randomly pull drivers over, there is actually a set of determinants which an officer considers before stopping a vehicle. It is important for a defendant – and their attorney – to consider those determinants once a person has been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has developed guidelines which law enforcement should follow in the impaired driving detection process. These factors are what determines whether or not the officer had probable cause to stop the vehicle. The NHTSA recommends this process should be done in the following three stages:

  • Law enforcement’s observation of the vehicle while it is moving;
  • The behavior of the driver once the officer has stopped the vehicle; and
  • How the driver performs field sobriety testing during the stop.

So what observations on the part of the officer would justify a traffic stop for suspected DUI?

According to the NHTSA, the following are possible indicators of drunk or drugged driver:

  • A vehicle which is swerving from lane to lane, drifting into other lanes, and/or straddling the line;
  • A vehicle which is traveling ten or more miles per hour below the speed limit;
  • Failure to use headlights when driving at night;
  • Quick deceleration and/or acceleration;
  • Sudden stops in the road;
  • Driving too close to the vehicle in front of them; or
  • Almost crashing into other vehicles on the road.

Once an officer has made the decision to pull a driver over, there are additional signs the NHTSA points out which can indicate the driver may be under the influence. These include:

  • The odor of alcohol coming from the driver;
  • The odor of mints or mouthwash, or other products, which may have been used by the driver to cover the smell of alcohol;
  • The driver’s eyes are watery or bloodshot;
  • The driver’s speech is slurred;
  • The driver lacks eye/hand/foot coordination; and
  • The driver’s responses to the officer’s questions are inconsistent.

Based on these observations, the officer may ask the driver to step out of the vehicle and conduct a series of field sobriety tests, such as standing on one leg and counting, walking a straight line heel to toe, and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (HGN).

Although these factors may all appear to be straightforward, a skilled Arlington Heights drunk driving attorney may be able to challenge any one of the determinants an officer used in pulling a driver over and field sobriety tests. If you have been arrested for driving under the influence, call Scott F. Anderson, Attorney at Law at 847-253-3400 today.

  

Sources:

http://www.nhtsa.gov/Impaired

https://www.isp.state.il.us/docs/sfst_1day_refresher.pdf

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