What is the officer looking for leading up to and during a DUI arrest?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jun 13, 2012

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The following is a list of indicators based on a person’s driving that police officers use to determine whether or not they think you are driving drunk and if they are going to pull you over for a closer examination. The list is based upon research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Administration: 

(1) Turning with a wide radius; 

(2) Straddling center of lane marker; 

(3) “Appearing to be drunk”; 

(4) Almost striking object or vehicle; 

(5) Weaving; 

(6) Driving on other than designated highway; 

(7) Swerving; 

(8) Speed more than 10 mph below limit; 

(9) Stopping without cause in traffic lane; 

(10) Following too closely; 

(11) Drifting; 

(12) Tires on center or lane marker; 

(13) Braking erratically; 

(14) Driving into opposing or crossing traffic; 

(15) Signaling inconsistent with driving actions; 

(16) Slow response to traffic signals; 

(17) Stopping inappropriately (other than in lane); 

(18) Turning abruptly or illegally; 

(19) Accelerating or decelerating rapidly; 

(20) Headlights off. 

Speeding, incidentally, is not a symptom of DUI; in some circumstances it may even suggest quicker reflexes and sobriety.

Symptoms of Intoxication that Suggest Drunk Driving

Once a police officer has taken the steps to pull you over for a closer examination, there are a number of indicators they are trained to look for in deciding whether a driver is intoxicated. The traditional symptoms of intoxication taught at the police academies are:

(1) Flushed face; 

(2) Red, watery, glassy and/or bloodshot eyes; 

(3) Odor of alcohol on breath; 

(4) Slurred speech; 

(5) Fumbling with wallet trying to get license; 

(6) Failure to comprehend the officer’s questions; 

(7) Staggering when exiting vehicle; 

(8) Swaying/instability on feet; 

(9) Leaning on car for support; 

(10) Combative, argumentative, jovial or other “inappropriate” attitude; 

(11) Soiled, rumpled, disorderly clothing; 

(12) Stumbling while walking; 

(13) Disorientation as to time and place; 

(14) Inability to follow directions.

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