police officer talking to female driver

What Happens During a DUI Stop?

If you’ve never been stopped by the police while driving, you may wonder how the process works. Specifically for a DUI stop– what can you expect to happen? Let’s discuss some of the events that could lead to a DUI stop, what may occur throughout your interactions with the police, and what to do to avoid an arrest.

What Makes The Police Pull Over a Driver?

The police cannot stop a driver unless they have reasonable cause.

Valid reasons for the police to make a traffic stop include:

  • If the driver violates the rules of the road
  • If the driver weaves between lanes
  • If the driver is speeding
  • If the driver is traveling well below the speed limit
  • If the driver exhibits some behavior that is dangerous to other vehicles on the road, like tailgating

When the police officer approaches the driver, they may ask if the driver knows why they pulled them over. The driver should always say no. Even if the driver knows they were speeding or otherwise doing something illegal, the driver should never offer up this information. In some cases, the police may have made a stop without a valid cause. By asking the driver this question, they may hope the driver admits to wrongdoing so they can cite that reason as the reason for the stop.

Additionally, the driver acknowledging what they were doing wrong automatically places some responsibility on them. In a later case, this can be referenced as an admission of guilt.

During The Stop

After the driver is pulled over, the police officer will continue to investigate the situation.

Some of the main signs police will look for when they are close to a driver include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Slurred speech
  • The scent of alcohol or marijuana coming from the vehicle
  • A lack of coordination when gathering documents (identification and registration)
  • General messy appearance

If they notice any of these signs, they will likely begin to treat the stop more as a DUI stop and move into sobriety testing.

Sobriety Test

A DUI stop can involve one or multiple types of sobriety tests. The most commonly used test for DUI is the breathalyzer test. During a breathalyzer test, the driver will be asked to blow into a small device for about five seconds. The device will then read the amount of ethanol detected and use this to estimate the driver’s BAC score. In Utah, the legal limit is .05%. In all other states, it is .08%. If the driver’s BAC is above the legal limit, this gives the police officer probable cause to arrest the driver for driving under the influence. The driver may also be asked to take multiple tests to get confirmation about the BAC score.

Next, let’s discuss field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests are the physical tests given during a DUI stop. By making drivers walk in a straight line, balance on one foot, or otherwise exhibit coordination and motor function, the police are looking for signs of impairment. If a driver does not complete the physical tasks to the police officer’s standards, they will fail.

Drivers should know whether or not they have to take these tests. Implied consent laws require drivers to take chemical tests during a traffic stop. Chemical tests are breath, blood, and urine tests. If they refuse to do so, their driver’s license may be suspended for up to 18 months. For many people, the threat of this long-term suspension gives them a reason to take the breath test. However, at times, it is still best to refuse a breath test in order to not give the police strong evidence of DUI.

Field sobriety tests, however, are not covered under implied consent laws. Although the police don’t tell most drivers this, field sobriety tests are always optional. If you are asked to take a field sobriety test, always say no whether you are sober or not.

The End of the Stop

At the end of the DUI stop, the police officer will use the information they gathered to decide whether or not to make an arrest. It’s important to note that they must have established probable cause to make an arrest. Simply feeling like the driver is impaired is not a good enough reason.

If the officer does not have probable cause to arrest the driver, the driver will be allowed to go and continue on their way.

If the officer has collected enough evidence of DUI, the driver will be arrested and taken into custody.

How To Act During a DUI Stop

Here is some information that drivers should keep in mind if they are ever stopped by the police under suspicion of DUI.

  • Use the right to remain silent
  • Never admit to drinking
  • Don’t consent to a search of your vehicle
  • Don’t take field sobriety tests
  • Remain calm

Salt Lake City DUI Defense

An arrest is not an automatic conviction. Our team at Lokken & Putnam, P.C. wants to help you fight your DUI charge. Share the details of your stop with our team today so we can get a better understanding of your legal defense needs. Reach us at (801) 829-9783 or click here to request a consultation.