We recently discussed some of the signs that police officers look for prior to making a Minnesota DWI traffic stop. Those who are out and about, especially late at night, are at risk of having some even ordinary traffic violations mistaken for indications of impairment. Simple issues like drifting around in your lane of traffic, driving too slowly or haltingly or driving without headlights on in the evening can all be seen as signs that a driver is intoxicated.
But as we mentioned in the previous post, this initial phase is only the first of three that make up a typical drunk driving traffic stop. The second phase, the personal contact phase, begins once the traffic stop has been made as the office approaches the stopped driver. So what happens during the personal contact phase and what signs of impairment do officers look for? Keep reading to find out more.
The personal contact phase of the investigation begins as the suspected drunk driver pulls over to the side of the road or another safe area out of the lane of traffic. The officer usually parks behind the driver and approaches the car to begin his or her investigation. The officer usually begins by asking a few questions, background information about name, reason for being out, etc., and may indicate the reason he or she pulled you over. At this point, the officer may also ask whether you have been drinking.
Many drivers wonder how to answer this question, understandably fearing that their answer may incriminate them. The reality is that while you need to be cooperative and respectful, you have no reason to answer any questions you do not feel comfortable answering. Of course tell the officer your name and other general information, but if you would rather avoid diving into specifics, you are free to say you’d rather talk to an attorney before answering any further questions.
While you are interacting with the officer, realize that he or she will be carefully watching you to try and detect signs of impairment. Officers are trained to look for physical cues such as red, flushed faces, watery or glassy eyes and slurred speech. Other indications of impairment that officers watch for include the telltale alcohol breath, though this smell may only exist because you just consumed a small amount of alcohol, not necessarily enough to justify a DWI charge.
During this initial contact phase, officers may ask you to step outside the vehicle or for you to hand over your driver’s license and registration. Though these may seem like simple requests, these too will be analyzed for signs of impairment. For instance, if a driver struggles to pull the wallet from his or her pocket or is shaky when retrieving the registration, these might factor into an officer’s decision to continue an investigation for drunk driving. Same thing goes for those who have trouble exiting their car steadily or sway while standing beside their vehicle.
So if the officer believes the personal contact phase has turned up further evidence of impairment, what happens next? Then the driver will move on to the pre-arrest stage of the drunk driving investigation. Keep reading to find out more about what happens during this phase.