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How Do Police Spot Drunk Drivers?

Posted by Ken Barrett | Oct 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

Learn how police in Rhode Island spot and pull over drunk drivers.

In Rhode Island, police officers are required to have probable cause in order to rightly pull over your motor vehicle. This means that an officer needs to have a legitimate reason for performing the traffic stop. In the case of drunk driving, you may be wondering how police spot drunk drivers on the road. We're sharing the main things officers look for when keeping an eye out for possible drunk drivers, which includes erratic driving behavior, distance problems, speed, and a few other factors to keep in mind: 

Erratic Driving Behavior

When you are under the influence of alcohol or another substance, your vision typically becomes impaired, as well as your balance. This can make it difficult for drivers who have had too much to drink to drive in a normal manner. Police keep an eye out for any kind of erratic behavior to detect for drunk driving.

Drunk drivers often have trouble staying in a straight line and are often caught weaving through traffic, which can be seen as reckless. In many cases, drunk drivers have difficulty staying in their own lane and will start drifting into other lanes that contain vehicles or they will begin to go off the road. This inability to remain in their own lane and drive properly often results in accidents that are sometimes deadly.

If an officer notices your vehicle is swerving a lot or that you are making unusually wide turns, this may also trigger a traffic stop to see if you are driving under the influence of alcohol. Another factor police officers look for is drivers that have the tendency to straddle one side of the lane. If you are unable to stay in the middle of the lane and drive straight, police officers will take notice and could be a red flag for them to pull you over.

Inability to Judge Distance

Drunk drivers can also have a tough time determining the correct distance between their vehicle and other vehicles or objects. Oftentimes, those who have been drinking fail to stop their vehicle in a timely manner. This is apparent in the instances of red lights and stop signs, as well as parking too far away from a curb. A police officer may notice that you are driving too closely to other vehicles, which could prompt a traffic stop as well. This inability to determine the accurate distance between their vehicle and other objects also results in car accidents.

Difficulty Maintaining Speed

Speed also plays a factor in whether or not an officer may think you are driving under the influence. Drunk drivers tend to have difficulty gauging the speed at which their vehicle is traveling. This can make it difficult for them to maintain a consistent speed while driving. If an officer picks up your speed on radar and finds that you are having difficulty maintaining the legal speed limit, you may be pulled over. Police officers can often detect drunk driving because drunk drivers sometimes accelerate abruptly after a stop.

Other Factors

Even though police officers are trained to look out for certain driving behaviors in order to detect drunk driving, there are other factors that could play a role in you getting pulled over. It is possible that you could be pulled over for something unrelated and then charged with drunk driving if the officer smells alcohol or notices unusual behavior. If you are pulled over for something that is unrelated to any kind of erratic driving, the case could potentially be thrown out since probable cause might not be present. For example, you could get pulled over for something simple such as failing to turn on your headlights, driving with an expired license plate, or a failed brake light.

It is also possible that a concerned citizen could notice your erratic driving, assume you may be under the influence, and then notify the local police station.

Don't Drive Drunk

The best way to avoid a drunk driving conviction is to never drink while under the influence of alcohol. Don't put your life or the lives of others at risk by driving home if you have been drinking. It is simply not worth the penalties you face or the possibility of losing your freedom.

About the Author

Ken Barrett

Attorney Kensley Barrett is a skilled criminal defense lawyer with a proven track record in handling a wide range of cases in Rhode Island. Known for his strong background in trial advocacy and negotiation, Barrett is dedicated to providing personalized and effective representation for his clients. Recognized as a "Rising Star" by Super Lawyers and with a 10.0 "Superb" rating on Avvo, he consistently achieves successful outcomes, including acquittals, dismissals, and reduced charges.


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Kensley Barrett

Our law firm was founded on the belief that working with us is more than just hiring a lawyer. Working with us will bring you peace of mind and also allow you to continue with your regular life while we attend to your legal matters. Our vast experience means that it allows us to excel in both aggressively representing your interests and generating the best possible result for you.