DUI Traffic Stop FAQs
Generally, a DUI stop begins as a stop for a traffic infraction, such as rolling through a stop sign or having a burned-out taillight. If the cop suspects you’ve been drinking, either because he smells alcohol on your breath or because of your behavior, he’ll ask you to perform one or more field sobriety tests. These tests are completed at the scene, right on the roadway. The police officer or state trooper must have seen at least two signs that you were drunk to give you the field sobriety tests.Signs of Intoxication
Cops are trained to look for certain things when they suspect a person has been drinking and driving. Many of these can indicate things other than drunk driving. They are:
- Watery, red, bloodshot, or glassy eyes
- Slurred speech
- Inability to understand the questions the officer is asking
- Instability or swaying when standing
- Argumentative, cheerful, combative, or other attitude the officer feels is inappropriate
- Stumbling when walking
- Not able to follow directions to divide attention
- Face is flushed
- Alcohol can be smelled on the breath
- Fumbling with your wallet when looking for your license
- Staggering when getting out of the car
- Leaning on the car for support
- Rumpled, dirty, disorderly clothes
- Disoriented; not sure where you are or what time it is
Pennsylvania has an implied consent law, so you are required to take blood and breath tests when an officer asks. Implied consent means that when you got your license, you agreed to submit to the tests when requested. You can refuse, of course, but it means your license will automatically be suspended for a year or more. Also, a refusal can be seen as another indication that you were driving drunk.Field Sobriety Tests
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has devised several tests that cops can use to help them decide if a person they have stopped is intoxicated. Below is a list of the most commonly used ones.
- Recite the alphabet
- One-legged stand
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which involves following a light with your eyes
- Touching your nose with your finger
- Walking a straight line
The penalties you will receive for a DUI depend on your offense. A first simple DUI can include penalties of fines, driver’s license suspension, probation, and performing community service. If the alcohol concentration in your blood was over 0.10 percent, you will face additional penalties. Subsequent DUI charges include mandatory penalties that are more severe. Other penalties you may face include the installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle, driver safety training classes, and alcohol rehabilitation.They Suspended my License! Can I Fight That?
A driver’s license suspension for a DUI is part of the civil proceedings, but is incorporated into the criminal ones. It does not go into effect until and unless you are convicted. If you have refused a blood, urine, or breath test, your license will be suspended automatically. This is the only time you can get a Department of Motor Vehicles hearing.DUI as a Felony
Generally, a DUI is considered a misdemeanor in the state of Pennsylvania. However, if other criminal activity—a vehicular homicide, for example—accompanies the DUI charge, or if there are other extenuating circumstances, a DUI becomes a felony. Even though a DUI is usually a misdemeanor, it still comes with harsh consequences and is still considered a severe infraction.Possible DUI Defenses
Because DUI is a complex offense, there are many defenses that could be used. Most fall into one of the following categories:
- Driving—The prosecutor must prove that you were not only drunk, you were also driving. This can sometimes be difficult if there are no witnesses to say you were the driver; for example, if you had an accident.
- Miranda Warnings—If the cops did not read you your Miranda rights at the correct time, any incriminating statements you made can be suppressed.
- Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)—There are many problems associated with BAC testing. Breathalyzer machines can read things in your breath as alcohol that were not. The ratio at which these machines convert breath alcohol into blood alcohol is not the same for every person, nor in one person from one moment to the next. Radio frequency interference can cause the readings to be inaccurate. These defects, and others, can be brought out in court. The defense can also hire its own forensic chemist.
- Retrograde Extrapolation—This is the term used to describe the requirement that your BAC be “related back” in time from when you were tested to when you were driving.
- Probable Cause—If the cop didn’t have a legal reason to stop, detain, and arrest you, he didn’t have probable cause. This causes even more complex issues in the case of sobriety checkpoints.
- Under the Influence—The arresting officer’s opinions and observations about intoxication can be questioned. The attorney should uncover and attack the officer’s predisposition to what he considers failing in regards to field sobriety tests. Also, other witnesses can testify for you in court that you were sober.
- Being tested while the alcohol was being absorbed—BAC tests will not reliably measure your BAC while your body is still absorbing it. The absorption process takes from thirty minutes to three hours to complete. It can take longer if you have eaten while you drank.
- BAC testing regulation—The prosecutor must prove that the BAC test completed on you complied with the maintenance and calibration requirements laid forth in Pennsylvania law.
This depends on how complex your case is. Each case is different; if you had a simple DUI, it will be resolved relatively easily. But, if your DUI was more complex, it will be more difficult to resolve. By choosing an experienced DUI attorney, you will get the best representation possible. Remember, though, that the cost of the attorney will be cheaper than the fines, higher insurance rates, and other costs involved in a DUI conviction.
Have you been stopped and arrested for DUI? If you have, you will need a criminal defense attorney with DUI experience to defend you. The Logue Criminal Defense team has handled hundreds of DUI cases. Logue Law Group serves Pittsburgh, PA, West Virginia, and Ohio. Call today for a free initial consultation. 1-844-PITT-DUI or (412) 389-0805, or contact us online.