Frequently Asked Questions About DUI Traffic Stops
The Initial DUI Stop
A DUI stop typically begins with a traffic infraction, such as rolling through a stop sign or having a burned-out taillight. If the officer suspects alcohol consumption based on your behavior or the smell of alcohol on your breath, they will conduct one or more field sobriety tests right at the scene. The officer must observe at least two signs of intoxication to administer these tests.
Signs of Intoxication
Law enforcement officers are trained to identify specific indicators of drinking and driving. However, it’s important to note that these signs may also be influenced by other factors. Some common signs include:
- Watery, red, bloodshot, or glassy eyes
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty understanding the officer’s questions
- Instability or swaying while standing
- Argumentative, cheerful, combative, or displaying other inappropriate attitudes
- Stumbling during walking
- Inability to follow directions and multitask
- Flushed face
- Odor of alcohol on the breath
- Fumbling with the wallet while searching for the license
- Unsteady while exiting the vehicle
- Leaning on the car for support
- Untidy or disheveled appearance
- Disorientation regarding location or time
The Blood and Breath Test Requirement
Pennsylvania has an implied consent law that mandates taking blood and breath tests upon an officer’s request. By obtaining a license, you have already agreed to comply with these tests. While you have the option to refuse, it’s important to note that it will result in an automatic license suspension for a year or more. Moreover, refusing to test can further indicate drunk driving.
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests
To determine an individual’s level of intoxication, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has developed a range of field sobriety tests. Some commonly employed tests include:
- Alphabet Recitation
- One-Legged Stand
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (tracking a light with your eyes)
- Finger-to-Nose Touch
- Walking in a Straight Line
Penalties for DUI Offenses
The consequences for a DUI offense vary based on the severity. For a first-time simple DUI, potential penalties include fines, driver’s license suspension, probation, and community service. If the blood alcohol concentration exceeds 0.10 percent, additional penalties may apply. Subsequent DUI charges carry even stricter mandatory penalties. Other possible repercussions include the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device, participation in driver safety training courses, and attendance at alcohol rehabilitation programs.
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