Behaviors that Police Use as Proof of Drunken Driving

When out on patrol, especially in the later hours of the night, police officers in Virginia will look for certain indications that a driver is driving while drunk or under the influence of drugs. While law enforcement tend not to publish the criteria they use, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) publishes a list of 24 cues that an intoxicated driver might exhibit while on the road, and also signs of intoxication that officers may detect once the driver has been pulled over. These criteria will often appear in an arresting officer’s testimony during a DUI trial.

The NHTSA’s list of signs of drunk driving include:

  • Failing to signal a turn or lane change
  • Turning with too wide a turn radius
  • Following other vehicles too closely
  • Difficulty staying in one lane of traffic
  • Stopping inappropriately or in an unsafe location or manner in response to an officer pulling the driver over
  • Driving too fast
  • Driving too slow

After the driver has been pulled over, law enforcement officers are on the lookout for such signs as:

  • Difficulty with a car’s controls, such as the headlights, hazards, or gears
  • Nervousness when talking to the officer
  • Shaking hands or fumbling when pulling out their driver’s license and registration
  • Changing answers or providing wrong answers in response to an officer’s questions
  • Taking too long to respond to an officer’s questions, or asking the officer to repeat themselves

As you can see, many of these behaviors aren’t purely signs of drunken driving; they’re errors that anyone could make. In fact, many of these behaviors could be the result of being nervous while a police officer follows closely behind you on the road, or due to being pulled over. Many times, an officer will assume that you’re drunk if you made a driving error while on the road late at night, and will then look for evidence to confirm that assumption. This is a reasoning error known as “confirmation bias,” and a seasoned Virginia DUI lawyer will know how to dismantle weak arguments based on such flawed assumptions when defending you against DUI charges.

If you’re facing DUI charges in Virginia, make sure you’re heading into court with the best possible defense, and contact the skilled and aggressive DUI defense lawyers at the Pack Law Group for a consultation, at 540-586-7225.