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How Do Cops Tell If You’re Drunk? (Body & Behavior)

los angeles dui lawyerIf you are pulled over by an officer under suspicion of Driving Under the Influence, there are physical and behavioral symptoms that officers are trained to look for.

Often times, these signs of intoxication are also displayed by drivers who are simply tired or nervous. This is why it is important to know what officers are looking for in order to avoid displaying them if you are pulled over.

When Will an Officer Pull Me Over for Suspected DUI?

Some of the most common reasons that officers pull people over and allow them to look for potential DUI symptoms are:

  • DUI checkpoints
  • Driving too fast
  • Driving unusually slow
  • Swerving
  • Not following the rules of the road
  • Crossing lines frequently
  • And more…

California DUI checkpoints are usually set up to observe a large demographic of drivers in highly populated areas who are statistically likely to be intoxicated during times where people tend to drink more often, such as during the holidays, on the weekends, or after sporting events. They smell alcohol and order you out for an investigation.

Officers need to have reasonable suspicion that you violated a law or that you might be driving under the influence in order to legally pull you over. This is something that will be noted in the police report from the arresting officer and can be a major piece of evidence when advocating for your defense in court.

Physical Signs of Intoxication That Officers Look For

Some of the clues that a police officer looks for to stop a driver include:

  • Failing to signal
  • Failing to turn your lights on when they should be on
  • Weaving in and out of your lane
  • Speeding
  • Driving along the centerline
  • Taking turns far too wide
  • Following too closely
  • Braking for no reason
  • Hitting objects
  • Stopping for no reason
  • Physical evidence of alcoholic beverages

If you exhibit any of these physical symptoms, and give the officer reasonable suspicion, they can pull you over and begin an investigation to further determine if they have grounds to arrest you for driving under the influence.

Part of this investigation relies upon additional physical and behavioral symptoms that are assessed when speaking with the officer. If you exhibit enough of the physical and behavioral signs of intoxication, an officer has the right to administer field sobriety tests.

Often times, these tests can be riddled with inaccuracies or can be administered incorrectly, skewing results and creating a false positive reading for intoxication. Faulty field sobriety tests are the #1 cause for Wrongful DUI Charges in California. If you have been charged with a DUI in Los Angeles as a result of a faulty field sobriety test, you should speak with an attorney immediately.

Behavioral Signs of Intoxication That Officers Look For

Once an officer pulls you over on suspicion of DUI because of physical signs, they look for confirmation of their suspicion from behavioral signs, such as:

  • Disheveled appearance
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Smell of air freshener perceived as a way to mask other smells
  • Slurring your speech when answering questions
  • Providing inconsistent responses to the questions
  • Being unable to follow directions or answer questions properly
  • Fumbling with documents in your car when asked for them
  • Smell of alcohol on your breath or in your vehicle

Many of these behavioral symptoms have simple explanations that have nothing to do with driving under the influence. Some people simply get nervous when they are pulled over. Other drivers who are tired, distracted, or nervous may exhibit some of the same symptoms as an impaired driver.

Understanding what police officers are looking for in order to determine intoxication is very important when you are driving or pulled over. Doing your best to not exhibit these physical and behavioral signals will help you to avoid doing field sobriety tests and potentially false DUI charges.

What to Do if You Have Been Charged with DUI in California

At the end of the day, the justice system is not always just. Law enforcement officers are only human, and they do their best to keep the roads safe. Occasionally, this leads to false charges of DUI due to faulty sobriety tests, and misinterpreted physical and behavioral signals from drivers.

If you have been charged with a DUI in Los Angeles, the first thing you should do is understand what steps to take next. From there, it is extremely important that you contact an experienced DUI attorney near you. Depending on your case, you may be able to fight your charges, or receive reduced charges with the help of an attorney.

Jon Artz has over 40+ years of experience advocating on behalf of DUI clients. Contact us today for a free case evaluation, and get advice on what steps to take next.


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