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DUI police stop procedure - Probable Cause

DUI Procedure: Police Conduct For DUI

(Field Sobriety Tests are voluntary in most states but not ALL states)

Getting stopped for drunk driving, commonly known as drink driving, DUI (driving under the influence), DWI (driving while intoxicated), DUII (driving under the influence of intoxicants), OUI (operating under the influence), OWI (operating while intoxicated), OMVI (operating a vehicle while intoxicated), DUIL (driving under the influence of liquor), DWAI (driving while ability impaired), DWUI (driving while under the influence) or DUBAL (driving with an unlawful blood alcohol level).

Drunk driving is a serious offense and the possible penalties, punishments and fines will differ slightly depending on which state a drunk driver is convicted in.

All 50 US states have "per se" laws which make in an offense to drive with a BAC (blood alcohol content - concentration) of 0.8% or higher.


Most states have lower limits or zero tolerance for certain drivers such as commercial drivers (professional drivers) and those under 21 years of age.

A driver can be prosecuted in many states without being over the legal prescribed per se BAC limit if they are visibly impaired while operating a motor vehicle!

Drunk driving - DWI - DUI is a misdemeanor in most cases but it is one of the more serious misdemeanors. In some cases where serious injury to people or serious damage to property has occurred it can be classed as a felony, it can also be classed as a felony if a driver has multiple drunk driving - DWI - DUI convictions.

Traffic stop

Before a police officer can pull over and conduct a traffic stop on a driver they must have probable cause that a crime has or is being committed or they have witnessed a driver committing a traffic violation or they have reason to believe a driver is driving under the influence based on their driving pattern.

DUI roadblock - Sobriety checkpoint

In some States, DUI roadblocks can be set up in order to try and catch and deter drunk drivers. Police will stop every car or follow a specific pattern of stopping say, every third car in order to investigate if a driver is impaired.

Field sobriety tests

If a police officer suspects a driver is intoxicated after a traffic stop he can request that person to perform what is known as a field sobriety test. A lot of people are unaware that in the majority of states these tests are completely voluntary and a driver is well within their rights to politely refuse to take a field sobriety test if they are over the age of 21 and are not on parole. While partaking in field sobriety tests is voluntary, it is worth noting that refusing to do so can go towards making a case for probable cause for a drunk driving arrest.

Field sobriety tests are subjective in nature and are used as a means to detect possible impairment and establish a probable cause for arrest.

Field sobriety tests may include the following:


Defined as "an involuntary rapid movement of the eyeball, which may be horizontal, vertical, rotatory, or mixed." Alcohol slows down the eyes' ability to rapidly track objects and causes to eyes to oscillate, or "jerk", before they normally would in a sober person. Alcohol stimulates the nerve endings, making nystagmus more pronounced in intoxicated persons. As a person's blood alcohol concentration increases, the eyes will "jerk" sooner as they move to the side. The Nystagmus test claims to gauge intoxication by measuring the involuntary oscillation of the eyes.

During a nystagmus test, the police officer will position an object (usually a pen) approximately 12 inches away from a suspected drunk drivers face. He will then move the object from side to side, all the while watching the suspects eyes for an involuntary jerking movement as described above.

Walk and turn

The police officer will first demonstrate the test while giving verbal instructions on how to perform the test to the suspect. The police officer will then ask the suspect if he understands the test and what is required before the test is initiated.

The police officer will then tell the suspect to take 9 heel-to-toe steps down a straight line. The suspected dunk driver will be instructed on how to correctly turn, after the initial 9 steps have been taken. A proper turn is taken with a series of small steps, which again the police officer demonstrates. The suspect is then instructed to take another series of 9 heel-to-toe steps back to the starting position. The police officer will instruct the suspected drunk driver to keep their arms by their side, watch their feet at all times, and count each step out loud. The suspect is directed not to stop until the test is completed.

Standing on one leg

The police officer will instruct the suspected drunk driver to stand with their heels together before raising one leg at least six inches off the ground while their arms remain by their side. The suspect will also be instructed to count out loud and switch legs. The police officer will be looking for obvious signs of difficulty in performing this test from the suspect such as raising their arms, losing their balance, hopping, swaying and other signs of impairment.

Finger to nose

The suspected drunk driver will be instructed to place their feet together before tilting their head back slightly with their eyes closed. They will then be instructed to touch their nose. All the time the police officer will be looking for obvious difficulty from the driver in carrying out the test such as losing their balance, the inability to touch their nose, swaying, eyelid tremors, body tremors and other signs of impairment.

The rhomberg balance test

During this test, the suspected drunk driver will be instructed to stand straight, close their eyes and tilt their head backwards for 30 seconds, the police officer will leave it to the suspect to estimate the timeframe of 30 seconds. The officer will be looking for obvious signs of difficulty from the suspect in carrying out this test such as loss of balance, inability to stand still, body and eyelid tremors, swaying, muscle tension and other signs of impairment.

PAS - Preliminary alcohol screening test

During this test the suspected drunk driver will be instructed to blow into a handheld breathalyzer that will detect and accurately estimate their BAC (blood alcohol content/concentration). This test is usually conducted at the roadside.

Other Field Sobriety Tests include finger tapping, hand clapping, counting backwards, or reciting the alphabet.

DUI Arrest

DUI Procedure: Chemical Tests For DUI

If the police officer gathers enough evidence to give him probable cause to arrest a suspect for suspicion of DUI then the suspect will be read his miranda rights and taken to the police station and will be required to perform a chemical test by giving a sample of blood, breath or urine. The DMV typically advises people that a condition of obtaining a drivers license is to give prior consent to submit to chemical testing when required to do so, this is known as "implied consent". Most states have some version of "implied consent" laws.

Chemical Testing

It is a criminal offense to refuse to provide a sample of blood, breath or urine when required to do so in most states and penalties for refusing are just as severe, if not more so, than being found to be over the legal prescribed limit.

A persons drivers license will be suspended immediately upon refusal to submit to a chemical test and the length of time it will be suspended for will vary from state to state. The refusal can also be used as possible evidence in a court of law to show "consciousness of guilt".

If you are charged with DUI or a related drunk driving offense then you can find out more information by following the link below.



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