How is Impairment and/or Intoxication Determined During a Traffic Stop?

impairmentImpairment and/or Intoxication During a Traffic Stop

If you’re pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence, there are a few methods that police officers use to determine if you’re over the legal limit and driving while impaired or under the influence of alcohol. Some of these methods are based on the officer’s observation of you. This observation begins from the moment the officer decides to pull you over and can include:

  • How you were driving- More often than not, this is the reason you get pulled over to begin with. Swerving on the road or other erratic behavior such as driving too slow, too fast, or drifting over the center line can all be reasons for an officer to pull you over.
  • Physical Cues- After you’ve been pulled over, the officer will look for physical cues and signs that you’re intoxicated. Glassy or bloodshot eyes, flushed face, fumbling for ID and/or if the officer smells alcohol on you can all be indications to the officer that you were drinking before you got behind the wheel.

Once the officer has reason to suspect you were drinking, he or she will often conduct field sobriety tests to determine if you are operating your vehicle over the state’s legal limit. These results of these tests are often what is used to not only arrest you for being impaired and/or intoxicated but can also be used against you in court.

  • Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)- FST’s are a collection of exercises that the officer uses to determine inebriation. The standardized tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, turn and walk, and one leg stand. The officer determines if you’re intoxicated based on your performance.
  • Breathalyzer Test- A breathalyzer is a device that measures the ethanol content (the type of alcohol that is found in alcoholic beverages) of your breath and is able to determine what your approximate BAC (blood alcohol content) rating is. After the samples are provided, the breathalyzer prints out a ticket with your BAC levels, which will be used as evidence against you in court.
  • Other Chemical Testing- Other means of gauging your blood alcohol levels are blood and urine tests. While these tests may be conducted at the police station, they may also be conducted at a medical facility in the event you are involved in an accident or are injured in some way. While more invasive, these tests are generally considered to be more accurate for measuring your alcohol content. Similar to the breathalyzer, the results may be used against you in court.

Once you’re pulled over and arrested under the suspicion of driving under the influence, there is a great deal of evidence that can be used against you in court. One of the most important things you can do during this time is to hire a lawyer. The experienced attorneys at Alpert Schreyer know Maryland state DUI laws, as well as the procedures and technology behind BAC testing. Protect yourself from the ravages of a DUI and call or go online for your free DUI consultation today.

About Andrew Alpert

+Andrew is one of the leading DUI and criminal defense attorneys in both the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia. He blogs about Maryland DUI law, has numerous videos on the subject and has been asked to appear on national television to offer his legal opinion on high-profile criminal cases.