Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney
Arlington police officers are looking for any sign that you may be impaired before pulling you over for a DUI. Signs of impairment in driving behavior can run the gamut, whether it’d be weaving within a lane, crossing the yellow lines in the road, crossing the white lane dividers, swerving, speeding, going under the speed limit, stopping too long at a red light. Any wide array of traffic infractions can signal to the officer that you’re under the influence. Additionally, police officers may suspect a DUI if you were seen leaving a bar and appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. An Arlington DUI lawyer can help you to better understand the structure of how DUI traffic stops are handled in Arlington, Virginia.
If police believe you are driving under the influence of alcohol, but they do not have enough probable cause to pull you over based only on your driving behavior, they may pull you over if you commit even a simple traffic infraction that a sober person could commit. For example, if you correctly pull into a red light, but turn right on red against the sign even though you are not weaving or swerving, you may be pulled over for that traffic infraction. Once you are pulled over, police will speak to you, and if they suspect that you are under the influence, they can investigate and potentially end up arresting you. Essentially, police are looking for anything that shows impairment or that can be used to justify pulling you over for a DUI, and so there are many different facts and circumstances can lead a police officer to pull you over.
Once you have been pulled over for suspicion of a DUI in Arlington, you can expect that the officer will approach your car usually on foot, his or her car will be behind yours, a light will be pointed into your vehicle from the police car and his lights will be activated. As the officer approaches your car, he or she will approach either from the passenger side or the driver side, whichever is safest. The officer will ask you to roll down your window and often ask you for license and registration.
When asking for license and registration, typically the officer is not only doing that to make sure you actually have your license and registration, but he or she is also doing it to see your coordination, your ability to follow instructions, and your ability to think logically by providing the right documents. The officer will also be making any observations of you and your car while he is at your window. The officer will be looking for bloodshot watery eyes, the odor of alcohol in your vehicle, other drunken people in your car, alcohol bottles in the car, or anything else that will lead him to believe that you are under the influence of alcohol.
The officer will get your license and registration and then go run that in his car. Officers do this for several reasons, but primarily they are making sure that the license is yours, that the car is not stolen, and whether there are any outstanding warrants for your arrest. The officer will then come back to the car and if he does not have a reasonable suspicion at that point, he should let you go. However, if he believes you to be impaired and can articulate that to the courts, later on, he can ask you to step out of the vehicle.
As you step out of the vehicle, the officer will be looking at your coordination upon exiting the vehicle to see if you need to balance yourself as you step out of the car. Once you are out of the vehicle, the officer will still be making observations about your appearance: your eyes, your odor, and your coordination.
An Arlington police officer will then typically begin a series of field sobriety test. Field sobriety tests are taught at the police academy to all police officers and are reliable methods of assessing impairment. The tests will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but in Arlington specifically, officers will typically have you do the one leg stand which essentially means you stand on one foot for a certain periods of time. They’re looking for your ability to follow instructions and for any coordination issues.
The officer will ask you to do the walk-and-turn which is essentially walking on an imaginary line keeping your feet in a heel-to-toe, heel-to-toe step procession, they’ll have you walk nine steps down nine steps back, and then want you to turn around in a certain manner. When conducting this test, police are looking to test your coordination and your ability to follow instructions.
In Arlington they will also do a finger touch test which requires you to touch your fingers to your thumb and count out loud: one, two, three, four, four, three, two, one, one, two, three, four, four, three, two, one. Here, police will be looking to see whether your fingers are touching your thumb as required, as well as whether you are able to follow instructions on the number of times you are asked to perform the task and are counting correctly.
They also tend to do an alphabet test in after a DUI in Arlington. In this test, they ask you to recite the alphabet backward from a certain letter, for example, repeat the alphabet from G to W and do not sing. And then they’ll observe to see whether you are able to say the alphabet and whether you mess up at all. After that, officers typically offer you a preliminary breath test. However, the breath tests are not completely reliable and are not admissible in court, so they cannot be used against you later on if you have a trial. The breath tests can be used to determine probable cause, however.
You do not have to take the preliminary breath test and there is no penalty for you if you do not. However, if you do take it and the test shows no alcohol the officer may be in a position to release you. If it does show alcohol, and particularly if it shows something above the legal limit, typically the officer will then arrest you. Once you are arrested, you will be searched, placed in the police car. You will be brought to the detention center where you will be searched again and asked to blow into a machine to determine your blood alcohol content again.