How do police decide who to charge with driving while impaired?

In general, police make contact with people who are charged with driving while impaired, or “DWI”, in one of two ways. First, the police may lawfully stop someone who is operating a motor vehicle if they believe that the person is committing or has committed a traffic offense. The offenses that may justify being pulled over are many. An officer may have clocked a person speeding faster than the speed allowed by law; an officer may have seen the person commit a moving violation such as running a red light or a stop sign; an officer may have noticed that a person’s motor vehicle windows were tinted beyond the extent allowed by law; or an officer may have noticed that a person’s license plate was expired. Whether an officer had a legally justifiable reason to stop a driver is an important—albeit sometimes overlooked—aspect of a DWI case. If an officer lacked the legal justification to stop a driver, then potentially any evidence gathered after the stop can be suppressed by a court of law. Suppression of evidence gathered after a stop may result in dismissal of a DWI case, since all the evidence gathered to show a person was impaired is generally gathered after the traffic stop. If you have been charged with DWI, it is very important that you contact one of the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC as soon as possible to discuss your case. Depending on the unique facts and circumstances of your case, our team of aggressive defense attorneys may be able to file motions on your behalf seeking to suppress evidence that was gathered by the officer who arrested you, on the basis that the officer had no legally justifiable reason to pull you over in the first place.

Accidents and careless driving may lead to DWI charges

Of course, in some cases officers have plenty of reasons to suspect a person is or has been driving while impaired. Officers may witness a person swerving in and out of one’s lane, may see a person driving recklessly or carelessly, or may observe a person driving in a manner that would give rise to the reasonable inference that the driver is driving while impaired. Officers responding to an accident may determine through observation and investigation that a driver of one or more of the vehicles involved in an accident was impaired. This determination may or may not lead to the conclusion that one or more drivers was at fault for an accident. An officer may charge anyone that he or she reasonably suspects was driving while impaired, regardless of whether that person caused an accident or was a victim of another driver’s negligence.

Roadblocks – DWI Checkpoints

Another common way in which officers detect impaired drivers is through the use of roadblocks. The United States Supreme Court—in recognition of the damage and loss of life caused by drunk-driving accidents in the United States—has sanctioned the use of police roadblocks, as long as the roadblocks meet certain criteria and are set up and operated in a manner consistent with Constitutional precedent. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are familiar with the technical, legal and practical requisites associated with establishing and operating Constitutional DWI roadblocks. If you have been arrested for DWI after being stopped at a roadblock, it is imperative that you contact one of the experienced criminal defense attorneys today. A criminal defense lawyer can investigate the circumstances of the roadblock in your case, and can determine whether you can assert any defenses based on violations of your Constitutional rights. It is crucial that you contact our team of defense lawyers as soon as you have been charged, to enable sufficient time to gather the necessary evidence to assert applicable defenses and to safeguard your rights.

Officers look for clues of impairment

It is important to recognize the clues for which officers are looking in order to determine whether a driver is impaired. In general, the telltale signs of impairment include bloodshot, red or glazed eyes, the scent of alcohol about a person’s breath or person, the presence of alcoholic beverages or paraphernalia in a vehicle, and a driver’s slurred speech or slow reaction time. Once an officer recognizes one or more of these signs, he or she may have sufficient reasonable suspicion to ask you to perform field sobriety tests. Officers seek to gather initial evidence of impairment through the use of field sobriety tests and alcohol detection devices. These tests and devices are addressed in further detail on this site.

The team of experienced criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are in courtrooms in and around Charlotte, North Carolina, every day of the week fighting on behalf of drivers accused of DWI. Our team of attorneys is well-versed in the substance and procedure of DWI cases, and we are eager to help you win your case. If you or someone you know has been charged with DWI, give us a call today at (704) 370-2828