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Factors Police Take Into Account When Pulling Someone For A DUI Stop

There are a few different types of stops. One stop would be at a sobriety checkpoint where they would be checking the cars that came through. These check points are set up based on grants and officers getting together and setting up in spots where there had been a lot of DUIs, or they would set up in high drunk driving areas.

The main method they use for DUI stops would be seeing someone commit some type of a vehicle code violation. This usually happens late at night, between 10 at night and 3 or 4 in the morning, because that is when most DUI stops tend to happen. The officers would not always assume the person they were pulling over was DUI, although that would usually be in the back of their minds.

We generally deal with two types of police officers during a DUI investigation. The first would be normal sheriffs or police officers who were trained to do everything. The other agency which probably does most of the DUI stops in the San Francisco Bay area would be the California Highway Patrol or the CHP. The CHP have basically been trained to stop anybody who committed a vehicle code violation or who looked like they may be weaving or doing something that was not orthodox. They treat any stop as a potential DUI investigation.

Other officers also do this, but the first thing they would want to do when they pull someone over is look out for their safety. They would keep their side arm away from the person’s car, facing usually with the other side, and they would try to get as close as possible so they could get their head almost inside the vehicle to see if they could smell the odor of an alcohol beverage. They would do a DUI investigation if the person exhibited really bad driving and they would probably suspect drugs if they were not able to smell any alcohol.

The officers typically decide who to pull over based on seeing someone who was weaving over a lane line, driving erratically, slowly and then quicker, or even if the person was weaving in and out of traffic, driving without being very cautious or doing any other of the many different things for which the police might pull someone over.

When people are out at those hours of the night and the police are just looking for any reason to pull someone over, they may follow someone they suspect of DUI. The person might have a taillight out or a license plate light out, or they failed to signal or something like that, but it would be enough for the police to pull the person over and then potentially give them a citation. This would give the officer the chance to put their head through the window and close to the person, so they could smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage if they got close enough.

Can They Escalate Anything As Simple As A Broken Taillight Into A DUI Investigation?

Yes, they could pull someone over for things like expired tags, cracked windshield, someone yelling out of a car, music playing too loud, headlight out, or forgetting to put headlights on, which is something that actually happens a lot. I have even seen people getting pulled over because they were driving too slowly. The police could pull people over for many different reasons.

Is There A Certain Criteria To Follow To Start A DUI Investigation?

Once the police believe someone may have alcohol in their system, then according to their training they should start doing field sobriety tests if they felt the person was impaired or maybe over the limit. They would ask the person some questions, and they would often do a test called the horizontal gaze nystagmus test which would be done when the person was still sitting in the car. They are checking for any involuntary jerking of the person’s eyes.

They would typically not go any further if they do not smell any alcohol and if the person had not had anything to drink, unless the person had done something very bad while driving. Once the investigation started, the police would want the person to get out of the car, and they would want to ask them a lot of questions which would allow them to watch the person and examine them so they could look for what they call the “objective signs of intoxication.”

They would be looking for slurred speech, bloodshot, watery eyes, an unsteady gaze, and of course the odor of an alcohol beverage. The police would have the person perform different tasks, and would try to have them multi-task by having them talk and do other things at the same time. They would have the person answer questions while they asked them to get their license and registration out, and things like that. It would be like driving because people generally need to be doing a couple of things at once while they are driving, so the police would be trying to see how good the person’s motor skills were.

Next they would get into the field sobriety tests and make the person walk the line, stand on one leg, the head back, eyes closed, estimating time, counting figures, and many other different tests they could do. They would typically run the person through those and then after that, if they felt the person might be impaired, they would have them blow into a handheld breath machine and they would arrest the person for a DUI if they were over 0.08.

Are The Days Of The $500 Fine And Slap On The Wrist For A DUI Gone?


For more information on DUI Stops, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (415) 523-7878 today.

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Aaron Bortel
With 30 years of specialized experience in DUI defense, Attorney Aaron Bortel is a dedicated advocate for those facing DUI charges in the Bay Area. Committed to helping clients avoid jail, save their driver’s licenses and jobs, and prevent permanent criminal records, he combines deep legal expertise with genuine care for his client's welfare. Trust in a lawyer who not only defends but truly supports you through challenging times.

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