DUI Traffic Stop FAQs
The Initial DUI Stop
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
The Blood and Breath Test Requirement
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.
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