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Signs police look for to tell if you are under the influence

On Behalf of | Oct 31, 2018 | BAC, DWI Defense

Many people question the legality and validity of DWI checkpoints. The reasoning is that the police essentially pull drivers over when there is no suspicion an individual is under the influence of alcohol. However, even if courts end up limiting the scope of these checkpoints, the police still maintain vigilant eyes on potentially intoxicated drivers. 

Drunk driving is a serious offense and can lead to jail time and massive fines even if it is a person’s first run-in with the law. It is useful to understand what signs police officers search for. In the event of an arrest for DWI, knowing the reason the officers pulled the vehicle over can aid with the defense. 

Signs from the car

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has created a list of signs that give police officers a reason to pull a driver over. Some of the most common indicators include the following:

  • Tailgating
  • Weaving in and out of lanes
  • Lack of signaling
  • Going 10 mph over the speed limit
  • Nearly hitting other cars or objects
  • Driving directly on the center line
  • Having a delayed reaction to traffic signals
  • Driving without the car’s headlights on
  • Braking inappropriately

Other explanations exist for why a driver would exhibit these behaviors. However, they do present cops with reasonable cause to pull a car over and potentially arrest the individual on suspicion of drunk driving. 

Signs from the driver

A driver may be able to explain away the erratic driving behavior, but the officer will then see if the driver personally shows any drunken attributes. Some of the tell-tale signs a driver is under the influence of alcohol include having glassy, bloodshot eyes, smelling of alcohol or slurring speech. The officer will ask for the driver’s license and registration, and if the individual has a significant problem presenting those documents, then that could give the officer enough reason to place him or her under arrest. 


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Travis Noble is a graduate of the National College for DUI Defense at Harvard University, and he lectures at seminars nationwide on DWI/DUI topics. He is the lawyer whom other lawyers consult to defend their DWI clients. Most importantly, he has a track record of successfully defending some of the toughest DWI cases in Missouri and beyond.

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