After spending an evening with friends at a local bar, you made your way home in your own vehicle, confident you were sober enough to make it safely. However, when police pulled you over – perhaps for a tail light, a problem with your tags or a minor traffic infraction – you ended up under arrest for driving under the influence or driving while impaired. As far as you could tell, your driving did not reveal that you had been drinking, so how did officers draw that conclusion?
Police use more than blood alcohol tests to determine if you are impaired behind the wheel. Often, their conclusion that you have committed the offense of DUI or DWI comes from a collection of observations that, when combined with a .08 BAC, may provide compelling evidence. However, many times the decision to place you under arrest is based on subjective judgments.
You may have committed no driving offense, but if police notice signs that are common in those who have been drinking, they may work to gather more evidence to support their suspicion. The evidence police will present to a court begins with field observations that include the following:
- Driving mistakes
- Footage from dash cams or other recording devices at the scene of your arrest
- Anything you say that incriminates you such as admitting you drank a beer
- Your performance on field sobriety tests like walking a straight line and standing on one foot
- Your physical appearance and behavior
Officers will notice if your hair is mussed, your clothes are rumpled or you appear unshaven. They will look for watery, bloodshot eyes and a heightened blush to your face. Slurred speech and the perception of alcohol on your breath may prompt officers to subject you to a breath test to determine your BAC.
Defending against charges built on subjective evidence
Louisiana and many other states consider a BAC of .08 as per se offense. This means that police can arrest you for DUI without needing any other evidence. Even if you did not swerve and have no alcohol on your breath, a .08 BAC is enough to put you in the back of a police car. However, a skilled attorney with experience in DUI and DWI laws will know how to challenge the validity of a BAC test.
Additionally, having legal counsel will increase the chances that you will have a strong defense to refute the testimony of law enforcement. Field observations are not always reliable, and you have the right to an advocate who will stand up for your best interests.