Nobody expects that they will face drunk driving charges. For many, there’s an assumption that they’re sober enough to drive safely even if they’ve had a couple drinks. However, police officers are especially vigilant about watching for signs of impaired driving. This could lead to an arrest for drunk driving if an officer has probable cause to show a driver is impaired, even a little bit.
Understanding the critical aspects of a drunk driving case is essential when crafting an impaired driving defense strategy. These are a few of the most pressing.
Reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop
The first critical issue in a drunk driving case is the establishment of reasonable suspicion. To initiate a traffic stop, law enforcement officers must have a legitimate reason to believe that a driver is violating the law, such as observed signs of impaired driving. Specific signs include erratic driving, swerving, speeding or other traffic infractions. Without reasonable suspicion, the legality of the traffic stop and any evidence gathered after that could be challenged.
Standardized field sobriety tests
Once a driver is stopped, officers may conduct standardized field sobriety tests if they suspect impairment. These tests are designed to assess a driver’s balance, coordination and ability to perform tasks that require divided attention, all of which can be impaired by alcohol consumption.
Standard tests include:
- The horizontal gaze nystagmus test
- The walk-and-turn test
- The one-leg stand test
Performance on these tests can be used as evidence of impairment.
Chemical testing for impairment
Chemical testing is another pivotal concern in a drunk driving case. This typically involves measuring the driver’s blood alcohol concentration through breath, blood or urine tests to determine if the driver is over the legal limit of 0.08%. Refusal to submit to chemical testing post-arrest can result in penalties, including license suspension, due to implied consent laws.
Requirements for arrest and charges
There must be probable cause for a drunk driving arrest. This means that the officer has sufficient evidence to believe that the driver is operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
Once arrested, the driver will face charges based on the severity of the offense and any aggravating factors, such as prior DUI convictions or the presence of minors in the vehicle. Developing a defense strategy must involve consideration of the various factors of the case and how they play out concerning an individual motorist’s circumstances.