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How do the police recognize drunk driving?

One question many people have about DUIs or DWIs is how the police recognize a drunk driver. For the most part, people who are pulled over are pulled over because of their actions. They may be swerving in and out of traffic or speeding in a residential area. In some cases, they're driving so slowly that the officers have to stop them for their own safety.

The ways officers identify those who are intoxicated vary, but the truth is that anyone who is intoxicated gives off specific signs. Officers look for traffic violations such as:

  • Improper lane changes
  • Driving without headlights on
  • Speeding
  • Weaving
  • Erratic driving

There is a requirement for probable cause when an officer pulls over a driver. That means that they need to be able to show that there was a reason to stop the driver. The police cannot stop a driver who is obeying traffic laws. Sometimes, citizen complaints might result in an officer following a driver, but if the driver doesn't make any driving errors, it's hard to stop them or pull them over.

How does an officer determine if you're drunk after a traffic stop?

Officers can ask you to take a breath test and to perform field sobriety tests. If you fail these, then it's a guarantee that you are impaired in some way, though drunkenness may not be the only cause for the failure of field sobriety tests. One of the only ways for officers to be certain is through a blood alcohol content (BAC) test, which shows how much alcohol is in your system.

If you are stopped and face a DWI, it's important to defend yourself. Officers have many steps that they have to follow to pull you over and arrest you, so it's important to make sure they did so fairly.

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