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How Does a Police Officer Decide to Arrest Someone for Drinking and Driving?

Posted on : January 20, 2021, By:  Tom Kokonowski, Esq.

A police officer may not arrest you until they have collected enough evidence that indicates you are likely intoxicated. 

To do so, an officer who pulls your vehicle over on the suspicion of drinking and driving will be: 

Assessing Your Vehicle Before the Traffic Stop  

Before turning on their lights to pull your vehicle over, a police officer is conducting an assessment of your driving behavior and ability to abide by traffic laws. 

To legally stop your car, a law enforcement officer must have a reason for doing so, also known as probable cause. This could be swerving, drifting out of your lane, or violating a traffic law. 

Looking At and Smelling the Inside of Your Vehicle  

When the police officer initially asks you to roll down your window to interact with you, they’ll be performing sensory investigations like checking for the scent of drugs or alcohol and looking for visual evidence like empty alcohol bottles. If the officer finds any evidence, this is probable cause to search your vehicle. 

Assessing Your Actions While Stopped  

Next, the officer will evaluate your actions during the stop. They’ll check if your speech seems slurred or your movements appear to be uncoordinated. If they ask you to get out of your vehicle and you comply, they’ll look to see if your balance is off or if you have trouble following the directions given to you. If you seem confused or can’t stand up, you’ll likely be taken into custody. 

Checking Your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)

If the law enforcement officer assessing you believes that you may be intoxicated by alcohol, they will likely conduct a check of your blood alcohol content, or BAC, using a breathalyzer test. 

If you are arrested due to high BAC, you may be able to argue that the results of the test were invalid or the equipment was improperly calibrated. 

Evaluating How Well You Do on Field Sobriety Tests  

The police officer may ask you to step out of your vehicle to submit to roadside sobriety tests. You can decline these and this is typically in your best interest; field sobriety tests are notoriously inaccurate and err on the side of guilt. 

Charged with OUI? Don’t Delay Getting Legal Support  

If you were arrested on an OUI charge, it’s crucial that you consult with an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney to get help. Call now for an initial consultation at 413-585-9200 (Northampton), 413-549-0022 (Amherst), or 413-737-9700 (Springfield).