What Does an Officer Need to Stop a Driver for a DUI?

An officer must meet certain criteria before they are able to pull someone over for suspicion of driving under the influence, and before they are able to administer and alcohol tests. To better understand the process, lets outline an analyze an example.

David is driving home from a friend’s birthday party. At the party he has had two beers. He feels fine to drive and believes he has no alcohol in his blood. When David is driving home, he thinks he can catch the yellow light, but instead, when he crosses the crosswalk, the light is red. Officers immediately follow him and ask him to pull over.

Officers need a reason to stop David, referred to as probable cause. They cannot arbitrarily pull someone over. The driver must have a traffic violation, or be missing a headlight, or even have an expired license plate. Additionally, officers can pull over and question someone as part of a Samaritan stop. This is a stop where someone is pulled over at the side of the road, and officers stop to see if everything is ok.

In the above example, David ran a red light. This is a traffic violation and gives officers the authority to pull him over.

Officers pull David over. As officers approach David they notice that his breath smells like beer. They also notice that his eyes are slightly watery. They ask David if he has been drinking, and David responds that he has had just one beer and is not under the influence at all.

Officers need reasonable suspicion that is a driver has had alcohol, or is under the influence before they can ask them to step outside of their vehicle and submit to an alcohol test. The reasonable suspicion can be obtained in several different ways. It can be through observations the officers make; this includes alcohol smell, red and watery eyes, slow gaze, slow reflexes, and other signs of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Reasonable suspicion can also be obtained through admission. More often than not people want to be honest and truthful so they will tell the officer what they have had to drink. However, this is an admission and stating that you have had some alcohol, in any amount, gives the officer the reasonable suspicion to administer an alcohol test.

If any of these procedures are not followed, then it may be grounds to throw out evidence that has been gathered. If there is no evidence, it weakens Prosecution’s case and can result in a dismissal or a reduction. If you believe these procedures were not followed, your Constitutional Rights may have been violated. Consult with a Los Angeles DUI lawyer as soon as possible so that you can learn about all possible defenses and arguments available to you!