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The police have been trained to recognize warning signs that something is not quite right. Whether they are assigned to investigate thefts, murders or patrol neighborhoods, their instinct combined with their experience help them build a veritable database of red-flag behavior to look for in public.

When a person driving with alcohol or drugs in their system crosses paths with a law enforcement officer, it may spell bad news for the driver. There are many methods police use to establish when someone is driving under the influence. Explore the tools and tricks police use to get these drivers off the streets before they hurt someone.


An officer cannot pull a car over unless it commits a crime. This stops law enforcement from abstractly pulling drivers over based on their looks or behavior. If an officer suspects a driver of being impaired, they will likely follow them for a time until the driver commits a traffic infraction like:

  • Speeding
  • Running a stop sign
  • Swerving over lane lines

Once this happens, the officer stops the driver and begins questioning them. The officer is looking for signs of impairment such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and rambling, nonsensical speech. The officer also checks for the smell of alcohol, either coming from the person’s breath or body. There may be signs of an alcoholic beverage in the vehicle, such as an open container. Drug paraphernalia in plain sight may give officers reason to believe that is what is causing the driver’s impairment.

Physical Test

If the officer gathers enough evidence during the initial conversation with the driver, a roadside sobriety test may be the next step. During this time, the officer gives the driver a series of simple tests to perform on the side of the road. These tests are aimed to challenge the driver’s ability to follow directions and willingness to cooperate. The maneuvers the officers ask drivers to perform include things such as balancing and following instructions. Drivers who become belligerent or refuse to participate may be arrested on suspicion of a DUI. Others who attempt the tests and cannot complete them may also be arrested.

When a driver is on the receiving end of a DUI stop, it may be an experience that leaves an impression. If you have experienced this type of traffic stop, you may want to speak to a Civic Center San Francisco DUI lawyer as soon as you can to help you establish a defense.



Thanks to Hallinan Law Firm for their insight into criminal law and how police determine if someone is driving under the influence.