There are a number of factors that go into a police officer’s decision to pull over a driver and investigate whether or not to arrest that individual for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Although this determination may seem random to the person being pulled over, the fact is that there is a carefully constructed set of behaviors that a law enforcement officer is instructed to observe in order to justify a stop. It is important to think about these things after a DWI arrest because the existence of the factors, or lack thereof, can make a big difference in a case against the driver.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established a series of factors that are to be used in the detection of driving while intoxicated (DWI) incidents. These include three distinct stages:
- The observations of the vehicle while in motion;
- The personal observations of the suspected DWI individual by the officer after a stop; and
- The screening of the individual through a series of field sobriety tests at the time of the stop.
The reason that these standards are in place is to establish that the officer had probable cause for each of the actions that he took leading up to the arrest on charges of DWI. However, there are other things that could have led to the behaviors that led to the stop, which may include fatigue and distracted driving. These can negate some of the justifications used to stop a vehicle. Minnesota places great significance on the existence of probable cause for a stop, which is why it is among a dozen states that do not allow sobriety checkpoints. Therefore, reasonable arguments about the lack of actual probable cause may lead to a reduction or dismissal of charges.
There are many behaviors that a police officer uses to justify a stop of a vehicle, including:
- Unusual lane movements, including weaving within a lane or across lanes, straddling the line, sudden swerving motions, and drifting;
- Near impact with other vehicles on the road;
- Sudden stops;
- Rapid acceleration or deceleration;
- Operating the vehicle ten miles per hour or more below the posted speed limit;
- Slow reaction to changing traffic signals;
- Driving without headlights at night;
- Following too closely behind other vehicles;
- Failing to respond to signals from a law enforcement officer in a reasonable manner; and
- Throwing objects from the vehicle or engaging in other inappropriate behaviors.
Once the officer has determined that he or she has a valid basis for pulling the vehicle over, the officer then has to make observations of the individual to determine if further action is appropriate, including having the person exit the vehicle and submit to field sobriety tests. The observations that are used to move to the next stage include:
- The person had bloodshot or watery eyes;
- The officer smelled alcohol on the person’s breath;
- The officer smelled mouthwash or other products that might be used to conceal the smell of alcohol or drugs such as marijuana;
- The individual was disheveled or was wearing soiled clothing;
- The driver exhibited lack of coordination;
- There were containers of alcohol present in the vehicle;
- The driver had slurred speech;
- The person admitted to having been drinking prior to getting in the car; and
- The driver was not consistent in his or her responses to questions.
Once the driver is asked to step out of the vehicle, the officer is making observations that he will use to require that the driver submit to further testing. It is possible to challenge the determinations of the officer at every stage in order to undermine a prosecutor’s case and get the DWI charges dismissed or reduced to minimize the negative impact on a person’s life. Contacting the right Minnesota DWI Defense Attorney is critical to this process.
Call Kans Law Firm, LLC If the Police Violated Your Rights
Attorney Douglas T. Kans of the Kans Law Firm, LLC is a skilled and dedicated Minneapolis DWI Attorney who has received top ratings over the nearly two decades in which he has fought to protect the rights and interests of his clients. He works with everyone who seeks his help to develop the best strategy based on the unique aspects of their case. Attorney Kans will advise you of your rights if you have been arrested for DWI and will work to determine how to minimize the impact of a DWI arrest. Call (952) 835-6314 to learn how Douglas Kans will fight to protect your rights.