Signs of Drunk Driving: What Do Police Look For?

Posted On: March 23rd, 2021 by Bradley J. Groene
Driver holding beer with police lights in background image

Safe driving requires various mental and physical skills, which don’t coincide with alcohol or drug use. When it comes to identifying impaired drivers, the police look for signs that you’re not fully in control of the vehicle and situation. Since an officer wouldn’t know if you’re under the influence of drugs, intoxicated by alcohol, severely fatigued, or just a terrible driver, when your driving appears dangerous, they use it as a reason to pull you over.

If you were pulled over and arrested in or around Hamilton County for operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVI), you need an experienced Cincinnati OVI lawyer. Attorney Brad Groene with Luftman, Heck & Associates can help. Let him explain the law, how it may apply in your case, and suggest what you should do next.

We are available 24/7 and offer free initial consultations at (513) 338-1890.

How Does Alcohol Affect Driving?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, alcohol reduces brain function, impairs thinking, reasoning, and muscle coordination. They’re all needed to drive safely. The following are impacted to greater degrees as alcohol enters your system:

  • Reduced coordination
  • Reduced ability to track moving objects like other vehicles or pedestrians
  • Difficulty steering
  • Slower response to avoid an accident
  • Less ability to concentrate
  • Lack of speed control
  • Inability to process information
  • Impaired perception
  • Less able to stay in a lane and brake appropriately

What Are Officers Looking for Before an OVI Stop?

Many things you do or don’t do can get a cop’s attention. But essentially, if you do the opposite of what a safe driver would do, that’s what gets you pulled over. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, this includes:

  • Quickly speeding up or slowing down
  • Following another vehicle too closely
  • Weaving or drifting across the road
  • Driving in an area not designated for vehicles
  • Nearly hitting an object, curb, vehicle, or pedestrian
  • Stopping for no reason or erratic braking
  • Signaling a turn that you don’t take
  • Your response to traffic signals is slow
  • Driving in the middle or on the wrong side of the road
  • Driving at night with your headlights off
  • Swerving
  • Driving far slower or faster than the speed limit
  • Sudden or illegal turns

When Does an Officer Have a Legal Reason To Pull Me Over?

If the officer has reasonable suspicion – or specific facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe – you committed, are committing, or are about to commit a crime, like drunk driving, he or she can pull you over. If that’s the case, the officer can briefly detain you and ask questions, but the officer lacks enough evidence to justify an arrest. It must be more than a hunch or a guess – thus their questions.

What Do Officers Look for After I’m Pulled Over?

The officer is trying to decide if you look, talk, and act like you’re drunk. He or she will:

  • Look in your vehicle for empty bottles or cans
  • Try to notice the smell of alcohol from you
  • Determine if you can focus on the officer or the conversation or not
  • Think about whether what you’re saying makes sense
  • Look to see if your vehicle appears as if it was in an accident

Can the Police Stop Me if I’m Parked?

Unless there’s a valid basis to arrest or detain you for questioning, you can’t be prevented from leaving. But driving away may or may not be a good idea:

  • If you’re parked legally somewhere, and there’s not enough evidence to arrest you, there’s no reason for you to leave. If you go and show signs of drunk driving, you may be pulled over and arrested.
  • If there is evidence you are in control of the car, such as if the vehicle is running or the keys are in the ignition, and you appear intoxicated, this can sometimes justify an arrest.
  • If you’re parked illegally or trespassing, and you’re intoxicated, you’re probably better off facing a trespassing charge than driving away, getting pulled over, and arrested for an OVI.

Charged with Cincinnati OVI? Let LHA Help

If you’ve been pulled over and the officer thinks you’re intoxicated, you’re in a very tough situation. The officer may have made up his mind and is just looking for reasons to arrest you, not looking at the situation fairly and being open to the fact you’re not committing an OVI. The officer’s mistakes may provide a strong enough defense to dismiss the case or provide you with a favorable plea.

If you’re arrested for OVI, Brad Groene with Luftman, Heck & Associates can help. Too much is on the line to go it alone and hope for the best. Call (513) 338-1890 or contact us online. We are available 24/7 and offer free initial consultations.