DUI Traffic Stop FAQs
The Initial DUI Stop
When it comes to a DUI stop, things often start innocently enough—a small traffic infraction, like missing a stop sign or having a taillight out. But if the officer suspects alcohol consumption based on your behavior or the smell on your breath, things can quickly escalate. Right there, on the side of the road, they’ll ask you to perform one or more field sobriety tests.
Signs of Intoxication
To administer these tests, the officer must have observed at least two signs of intoxication. They’ve been trained to spot indicators of drinking and driving, although it’s important to remember that some of these signs can also have innocent explanations. Here are a few of the common ones:
- Watery, red, bloodshot, or glassy eyes
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty understanding the officer’s questions
- Unsteady balance or swaying while standing
- Argumentative, combative, excessively cheerful, or displaying other inappropriate attitudes
- Stumbling while walking
- Inability to follow directions or multitask
- Flushed face
- Alcohol odor on the breath
- Fumbling with the wallet while searching for the license
- Leaning on the car for support
- Untidy or disheveled appearance
- Disorientation regarding location or time
The Blood and Breath Test Requirement
But that’s not all. In Pennsylvania, there’s an implied consent law, which means that if an officer requests a blood or breath test, you’re expected to comply. It’s part of the deal when you obtain a license. Refusing these tests can lead to an automatic license suspension for a year or more, and it can further indicate drunk driving. It’s something to consider before making a decision.
Field Sobriety Tests
To determine a person’s level of intoxication, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has developed standardized field sobriety tests. These tests include a range of commonly used methods:
- Reciting the alphabet
- One-legged stand
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus test (tracking a light with your eyes)
- Touching your nose with your finger
- Walking in a straight line
The severity of DUI offenses results in varying penalties. For a first-time simple DUI, consequences may 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 come with stricter mandatory penalties. These might include the installation of an ignition interlock device, participation in driver safety training classes, and attendance at alcohol rehabilitation programs.
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