DUI Traffic Stop FAQs
The Initial DUI Stop
A DUI stop typically begins as a traffic infraction, like 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 request one or more field sobriety tests to be conducted right at the scene on the roadway. The officer must have observed at least two signs of intoxication to administer these tests.
Signs of Intoxication
Law enforcement is trained to identify specific indicators of drinking and driving. However, it’s important to note that these signs may also arise due to 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, which 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 will result in an automatic license suspension for a year or more. Moreover, a refusal to test can further indicate drunk driving.
Field Sobriety Tests
To help assess a person’s level of intoxication, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has developed several standardized field sobriety tests. Some commonly used ones include:
- Reciting the alphabet
- One-legged stand
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus test (following a light with your eyes)
- Touching your nose with your finger
- Walking in a straight line
The penalties for a DUI offense vary depending on the severity. A first-time simple DUI can result in fines, driver’s license suspension, probation, and community service. If the blood alcohol concentration exceeds 0.10 percent, additional penalties will apply. Subsequent DUI charges carry even stricter mandatory penalties. Other consequences include the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device, participation in driver safety training classes, and attendance at alcohol rehabilitation programs.
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