Much of the time, law enforcement officers have no reason to believe a person is driving drunk when officers observe the person driving. It’s not until the officer has the person stopped and pulled over for simple traffic violations that they can observe “objective symptoms” causing them to suspect that the driver may be driving under the influence. So what are some of the most common driving mistakes that drivers commit which allow officers to pull them over?
- Driving faster or slower than prevailing traffic conditions. If a driver is driving faster or slower than others on the road, regardless of the speed limit, they’ll stick out like a sore thumb to observing officers.
- Swerving or drifting, even if it occurs within a lane. More so that other mistakes, swerving allows an officer to suspect that alcohol may be involved even before they reach the window and observe the “objective symptoms” of a DUI.
- Erratic driving. Like swerving, the erratic driving, itself, will tip off an officer that a driver is intoxicated. Erratic driving includes sharp, jerking changes in direction. It may also include slowing down then speeding up for no particular reason.
- Driving at night without headlights. You’d be surprised how many DUI clients I’ve had who have gotten pulled over because they forgot to put their headlights on. If you’re trying to remain inconspicuous when driving home, don’t do it by driving with your headlights off. Trust me, the officers will still see you.
- Failing to use blinkers. This is a popular one amongst officers. Several of my clients have sworn up and down that they used their blinker properly when the officer stated that the reason for the stop was failing to signal. I’m not saying that officers make it up, but what I will say is that there is almost no way to confirm whose story is correct. I’ll also say that when it comes down to “he said, she said,” the court will almost always side with the officer over the suspected drunk driver.
- Unsafe passing. While they may get home faster, drivers who weave around others on the road will catch the attention of observing officers. Remember that if you’re passing others on the road, you’re going faster than they are. See number 1.
- Driving with the windows down in cold weather. I enjoy driving with the windows down when it’s cold outside and I’m never drunk when I do. However, while it may not be illegal to do so, something about it says to officers, “I’m drunk and I need to stay alert.” If, however, this is the only thing that the officer cites as the reason for the stop, it is an illegal stop and you have a good shot at winning your California DUI case.