Drunk Driving Part 2: What are cops looking for when they pull you over?
What to know about getting pulled over for a suspected DUI
In the first part of this series, we discussed the reasons a police officer might pull you over for a suspected DUI.
If you do end up getting pulled over, don’t panic. You aren’t automatically under arrest. First, an officer will ask you for your license, registration, and other personal details to check if you’re legally allowed to drive. They will also make sure that you don’t have any outstanding warrants.
Assuming that everything checks out, the officer will then begin to question you. If the officer believes you are operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVI), there will be several things they’ll be paying attention to:
Even though alcohol is technically odorless, officers can still detect the scent of alcoholic drinks (beer,whisky, etc). Even if your windows are open to air out the vehicle, most officers can smell it on your breath as they’re speaking to you. Police will also seek to identify other strong smells such as marijuana, or any other illicit substances you may have been using.
When a police officer asks you questions (for example, “Where are you heading tonight?” “Do you know why I pulled you over?” “Where are you coming from?”) they aren’t just looking for answers, they are gauging the way you’re responding. Here are a few red flags they’re looking for:
- Slurring: This is probably the most common and obvious speech–related symptom of intoxication. If you’re having difficulty pronouncing certain words and speaking clearly, the officer is going to suspect that you’re intoxicated.
- Contradictions: When an officer asks you about where you’re going and where you’ve been, they’re not just making idle conversation. The officer is checking to see if your story has any holes in it, or if your story keeps changing. For instance, if you tell the officer that you were driving home, then later in the conversation, you say that you are driving to the store, the officer is going to think you’re hiding something, or that you have a reason for being dishonest.
- Attention span: While you’re speaking to the officer, they’re going to notice if you can’t stay on topic, or if you keep getting distracted. If you keep going off on tangents or start oversharing personal info that you weren’t asked about, the officer may suspect you of DUI.
A police officer will also be keeping a close eye on how you’re acting in response to getting pulled over. Sure, it’s natural to get a little nervous, but if you’re in an extreme state of panic, or overly jittery, the officer may think you’re hiding something. Angry, aggressive behavior is a red flag, as well.
When an officer is looking of signs of intoxication, the eyes can be a big giveaway. This is why you often see officers shining their flashlights in the eyes of potential suspects on crime TV shows. Here’s a few things they’re looking for:
- Red or bloodshot eyes
- Glassy eyes
- Dilated pupils
- Involuntary jerking when looking back and forth (Nystagmus)
Exhibiting any of these symptoms will most likely lead an officer to believe that you’re driving while impaired. If this is the case, they may ask you to step out of the vehicle.
Be sure to read part three of this series to learn the ins and out of field sobriety tests.
Getting a DUI lawyer
Yavitch & Palmer specializes in drunk driving cases. If you’ve been charged with a DUI/OVI, one of Yavitch & Palmer’s Columbus drunk driving lawyers can help. They will go over every aspect of your case and do everything they can to minimize your drunk driving charges, or even get them completely thrown out.