Prince William County police officers look for forms of erratic, sloppy, or unsafe driving behavior by drivers before pulling them over for possible DUI investigations. Common indications of DUI in a person’s driving behavior are swerving within or between lanes, drifting on or beyond lane markers, and exhibiting slower-than-normal reactions to changing traffic signs and conditions. Another common indicator of drunk driving to the police is when a driver is discovered parked and asleep in the driver’s seat in a disorganized way with the vehicle still partially on or with the keys in the ignition. However, a large amount of DUI investigations actually stem from traffic stops where a driver is pulled over for driving behavior that is not necessarily indicative or related to drug or alcohol impairment, such as speeding, driving with defective lights or mirrors, and failure to use blinkers. Police officers are trained to check for signs of DUI even when pulling people over for these non-suspicious forms of driving behavior.
Read below to learn more about Prince William County DUI stops. And if you have any questions, contact an accomplished DUI lawyer today.
A typical DUI stop process in Prince William County involves an initial stop by an officer for observed driving behavior that was concerning to the officer due to safety reasons and/or in violation of a criminal or traffic law relating to the proper operation of a motor vehicle. On occasion, a stop will be initiated based on civilian-caller reports of drunk driving that an officer does not personally see, but follows up on in the reported area of the call.
Once stopped, an officer will come to speak to the driver through the driver’s window being cracked, and ask for license and registration. If the officer notices an odor or appearance of alcohol consumption on the driver, the officer will ask the person why they smell like alcohol and/or how much they have had to drink before driving. This is usually the point at which the traffic stop shifts from a traffic offense investigation to a DUI investigation. More officers will then be called to assist the initial officer in investigating and arresting the suspect, as well as to block off the surrounding portion of the roadway in case a suspect needs a safe room to perform tests or tries to flee the scene in their vehicle or on foot. Suspects are typically ordered out of their vehicle after being directed to turn off the ignition and asked if they will do some field sobriety tests.
The three most common and reliable field sobriety tests that a Prince William County officer will want to administer during a DUI stop are the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk and turn test, and the one-leg stand test. Other ancillary tests that are frequently used are counting select ranges of numbers or letters in the alphabet out loud in an irregular or reverse order. The final test that an officer will typically ask for is a preliminary breath test, which is a hand-held breath test machine that gives an officer a quick and rough reading of a person’s breath-alcohol level.
Officers will not want to search a DUI suspect’s vehicle unless they believe it might plausibly lead to the recovery of other criminal evidence that either supports the DUI charge that they are investigating or separate charges related to a person’s vehicle status, license status, or possession of criminal contraband such as illegal weapons, drugs, and paraphernalia.
People never need to consent to a search of their vehicle during a traffic stop. However, if officers have enough level of suspicion that criminal evidence will be found in a vehicle, they can lawfully search and seize a vehicle accordingly regardless of whether a person consents to the search or seizure.
Implied consent is a legal concept whereby drivers’ use of Virginia’s public roads is conditioned upon drivers preemptively and automatically consenting to the taking of a breath and/or blood test to determine the blood level of an intoxicating substance if they are lawfully arrested for a DUI charge and asked to submit to such test.
Implied consent legally forces someone to give a breath test at a police station or jail for the detection of alcohol. Implied consent is the basis for issuing further charges of unreasonable refusal against DUI arrestees who refuse to submit to any testing whatsoever. A person who refuses to take a breath or blood test may lose their driving privileges for a period of time.
The only point at which a driver is legally entitled to confer with a lawyer during a DUI stop is after the driver has been arrested, which is usually indicated to the driver by the officer reading their Miranda rights. This right is only related to assistance before responding to substantive questions by police about the commission of the suspected DUI, so if the police choose to not ask such questions, the driver does not get to speak to a lawyer while in custody.
Call an accomplished attorney today to learn more about Prince William County DUI stops and how we could help you.