To pull over motorists, officers must generally have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Essentially, this standard is an evidence-based hunch. In DWI situations, reasonable suspicion is a two-tier inquiry. First, officers must detect criminal activity with regard to vehicle operation. Second, officers must have evidence of substance use, so they can properly conduct DWI investigations.
In North Carolina, drivers are intoxicated if they are under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any combination of these two substances. Additionally, Section 20-138.1 dictates that persons with a BAC level above the legal limit, which is normally .08, are intoxicated as a matter of law. Raleigh DWI defense lawyers have a number of options in terms of responding to these allegations.
Signs of Drunk Driving
Sometimes, police officers pull over motorists for non-moving violations, such as an expired inspection sticker. But in most cases, the stop involves a moving violation, such as:
- Weaving: Intoxicated motorists often have issues maintaining proper lane position and switching between lanes. Some red flags include weaving through traffic, swerving, extremely wide turns, operating too close to the centerline, and straddling the road. However, it is usually not illegal to weave inside a single lane of traffic in North Carolina. Such behavior, standing alone, usually does not justify a stop.
- Braking and Acceleration Issues: Impaired motorists also have trouble judging speeds and distances. Red flags include not driving at consistent speeds, driving far below or above the posted speed limit, sudden acceleration or deceleration for seemingly no reason, stopping at the wrong place when entering an intersection, making jerky stops, and odd angle braking.
- Awareness Problems: Drunk drivers are often unaware of their surroundings. They ignore or overlook things like other vehicles on the road and traffic signals. Going against traffic signals, driving in the wrong direction, not using turn signals, and not using headlights are some common red flags.
- Judgment Difficulties: On a similar note, many drunk motorists are not as alert as sober motorists, so impaired drivers often take more risks. These items include unsafe lane changes, illegal turns, tailgating, and driving off the road.
Signs of Intoxication After Being Pulled Over
When officers observe this kind of driving behavior, they immediately suspect drunk driving. So, after they approach the motorist, the look for clues of intoxication, such as:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Slurred speech
- Odor of alcohol
- Unsteady balance
- Driver disorientation
- Slow reflexes
If officers see any of these red flags, they usually ask drivers to perform field sobriety tests and provide a chemical sample of breath or blood.
Contact an Experienced DWI Attorney
After most DWI arrests in North Carolina, officers record all these signs in their reports and use them as evidence at trial. At Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh, Attorneys at Law, our Raleigh DWI defense lawyers can review your case, identify any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, and develop a strong defense strategy. To schedule a free consultation, fill out the form below or call us at (919) 887-8040.