What Do Police Look for When Investigating a Possible DUI in Virginia?
Aug. 16, 2019
When a police officer pulls you over in Virginia, whether it's day or night, it's often for a violation of a traffic offense. Sometimes this simple traffic stop can turn into something much worse, like an arrest for a DUI. This often happens when the officer smells alcohol in the vehicle or on your person or notices other clues that may lead him or her to believe you are unlawfully intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle.
When the officer suspects a DUI, an investigation commences. There are certain indicators an officer looks for before he or she requests you to perform a field sobriety test or give a breath sample via a preliminary breathalyzer. Here's an overview of what these signs are.
Appearance Indicators of Intoxication
The first thing a police officer will notice is your appearance. Before you even speak a word, the way you look could suggest intoxication. Trained police officers will look for the following appearance indicators:
bloodshot, glassy, or watery eyes
twitching or body tremors
Of course, any of the above appearances could be the result of other things, like a medical or physical condition. If you experience any of the above due to a condition you are aware of, be sure to advise the officer of the same. It may or may not make a difference, but at least you can be on the record for stating it.
Behavior Indicators of Intoxication
There is certain behavior that may inform a police officer's suspicion that you are unlawfully intoxicated by a chemical substance. This behavior can be broken into three categories: physical behavior, speech, and attitude.
swaying, staggering, or stumbling
unable to stand up straight
unable to sit up properly or slouching
restless or fidgety
crying, sullen, or moody
sudden extreme changes in behavior
overly animated or loud
drowsy or falling asleep
unable to maintain eye contact or focus
disoriented, agitated, or anxious
loud or noise speech
sudden change in speech tone
too fast or too slow speech
aggressive or belligerent
Trained police officers will consider this behavior in light of the overall circumstances to determine if a DUI investigation should ensue.
Other Indicators of Intoxication
There are other indicators as well, like the smell of alcohol, marijuana, or other chemicals on your person or in the car. There may also be an open bottle in the vehicle, which itself is enough to warrant an arrest regardless of whether or not you are illegally intoxicated.
The Key Takeaway on Appearances & Virginia DUIS
It is important to remember, again, that there may be other reasons why you exhibit any of the above signs. It is also important to remember that these indicators are observations, and as such, are completely subjective.
Unfortunately, in the State of Virginia, an officer can arrest you just for appearing impaired. Say, you refuse to perform field sobriety tests (because you are not required by law to do them) or you refuse to provide a breath sample (which can mean tougher penalties or longer driver's license suspension), the officer may arrest you on appearances and then take you into custody to get a breath or blood sample after a warrant is obtained.
Next time you get behind a wheel, regardless of whether you have had a drink or not, pay attention to your appearance and behavior because something simple can lead to big problems. And if you are arrested for a DUI in Virginia, contact an experienced DUI attorney in Charlottesville to help you.