What Do Cops Look For Before a DUI Stop?

Posted by Aaron D. Lawrence | Jan 19, 2023 | 0 Comments

It happens all too often. Someone goes out for a night on the town, has a little too much to drink, and ends up behind bars facing DUI charges. In the state of Louisiana, fun events like Mardi Gras, NFL games, and other community festivities are the perfect recipe for easily influenced bad decisions. 

If you've been charged with a DUI, one of the most viable defense strategies you can use to mitigate your charges is no probable cause for the arrest. Meaning, the officer who pulled you over did not have reason to do so. To use a no probable cause defense in court, you must first understand what constitutes probable cause in the first place. Let's look at the top signs that officers look for before making a DUI stop. 

After interviewing police officers making more than 12,000 DUI and DUI stops, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has identified over 100 visual cues that police look for when detecting a potentially intoxicated driver on the road. Both law enforcement officers and prudent drivers can use these signals to spot potential threats while driving. Knowing the signs can increase driver safety and raise awareness about the dangers of getting behind the wheel when one is under the influence of alcohol or other dangerous substances.

Top 4 Signs of Impaired Driving

The more than 100 signs that were compiled allow law enforcement personnel to predict with some accuracy the likelihood that a driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher by observing their driving pattern with the naked eye. A BAC of 0.08% is the minimum BAC required for a driver to be convicted of DUI/ DWI.

There are four major categories of driving behavior police officers look for when flagging drunk drivers. Police officers believe that drivers who display these behaviors behind the wheel have at least a 35% chance of being under the influence of alcohol.

Difficulty Staying in a Lane

Drivers feeling the effects of alcohol often have trouble driving at a consistent and steady pace. They find it hard to stay in the lines, and often drift between lanes. The most common DUI/DWI signals include:

  • Weaving in and out of traffic lanes, possibly hitting objects or other vehicles outside of their lane
  • Riding the center lane
  • Drifting toward one side of the road
  • Swerving, making sharp adjustments to straighten the vehicle
  • Turning too wide

In addition to driving under the influence, there are many other reasons why cops might witness a driver having difficulty staying in the lane. The driver could have been experiencing an unexpected medical condition, have children in the car, or be distracted by something alongside the road. Although swerving is dangerous no matter what the reason is, if you were pulled over for a DUI stop but were not drinking and driving, you have a case for an extremely viable defense.

Trouble Accelerating or Braking

Impaired drivers can't make sound judgments behind the wheel. They miscalculate speed and distance, which leads them to:

  • Make short and jerky stops
  • Stop far past a limit such as a crosswalk
  • Stop far ahead of a limit such as a crosswalk
  • Stop at an odd angle

If there was another reason why you experienced difficulty braking or accelerating besides the influence of alcohol, it's imperative to inform your attorney immediately so they can gather the appropriate evidence.

Struggling to Remain Vigilant

Drivers under the influence of alcohol usually don't have full awareness of the conditions around them. They may not notice traffic signals or the movement of other vehicles. Those who are ripe for a DUI/ DWI in Louisiana may partake in the following dangerous driving behaviors:

  • Driving the wrong way
  • Delayed response to traffic signal
  • Stepping on the brakes for no apparent reason
  • Using the wrong side turn signal when indicating a turn or lane change
  • Driving in the dark without headlights on

Experiencing a significant emotional event is a viable defense for being pulled over while struggling to remain vigilant. In situations where your emotions are significantly heightened, you might have difficulty gaining full awareness of the conditions around you and struggle to remain vigilant. If you were pulled over for a DUI after experiencing a significant life event and you did not register a BAC of .08 or higher, tell your attorney.

Struggling with Judgment

Many other faculties become impaired when under the influence of alcohol while driving. In addition to the above dangerous driving behaviors, impaired drivers may take additional risks, such as:

  • Tailgating
  • Making illegal turns
  • Erratic lane changing
  • Driving off the road

Any time you're not following the rules of the road, you're subject to penalty. If you were not following the rules for a reason other than driving under the influence, however, your penalties will decrease significantly.

Experienced DUI Attorneys in Louisiana

No matter the reason you were pulled over and charged with a DUI, the best thing you can do for your future is to obtain a trustworthy and experienced lawyer. A DUI lawyer will be able to gather pertinent evidence surrounding your case to create a viable defense strategy that stands up in court.

A Louisiana DUI/DWI can greatly affect your future if you do not have competent legal representation. Contact Lawrence Law Firm for the greatest chance to preserve your potential defenses, your license, and your criminal record. Call 318.232.4000 or fill out this form now.

The blog published by Lawrence Law Firm is available for informational purposes only and is not considered legal advice on any subject matter. By viewing blog posts, the reader understands there is no attorney-client relationship between the reader and the blog publisher. The blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional attorney, and readers are urged to consult their own legal counsel on any specific legal questions concerning a specific situation.

About the Author

Aaron D. Lawrence

Aaron is a Criminal Defense and Personal Injury Attorney in Ruston, Louisiana. He received his Juris Doctor and Graduate Diploma in Comparative Law from the Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center. He received his Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences from the University of North Tex...


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