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What typically occurs during a DWI traffic stop?

Getting stopped for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if you do not know what to expect. During a DWI stop, there are certain things the law both permits and does not permit officers to do. If they do anything beyond their scope of power, it may help your case if you ultimately face a DWI charge.

In order to pull you over, police need cause. The cause can be any traffic violation. You may show signs of possible impairment. Such signs may include:

  • Driving either too fast or too slow
  • Swerving
  • Failing to obey traffic signs or signals
  • Driving too slowly
  • Failing to yield or stop

All of these are also just signs of reckless driving, so a DWI charge need not be inevitable. However, if the officer notices a smell of alcohol, or sees that your eyes are glassy or blurred, the traffic stop may turn into a sobriety check.

Field sobriety tests

There are three standard field sobriety tests: the one-leg stand, the walk and turn, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus. Each of these tests is looking for your ability to balance, focus and follow directions. The HGN goes further by looking at the eyes for a specific jerking motion they make when impaired. In Arkansas, you are not required to submit to a field sobriety test. It is smart to refuse to submit to all tests; even chemical testing performed in the field.

Chemical testing

Along with field sobriety tests, the officer may ask you to supply a breath sample for testing. If your blood-alcohol content percentage is a .08% or higher, a DWI charge is likely to follow. You are not legally required to submit to a portable breath test in the field. However, in Arkansas you are required to submit to the breath test at the police station or detention center. You are further required to submit to a urine screening if requested by the officer.

What the officer cannot do

An officer cannot pull you over without cause. An officer cannot force you to answer questions about your drinking. An officer cannot force you to participate in field sobriety testing or portable breath test. An officer cannot force you to provide a blood sample unless he has a subpoena.

Defend yourself

If you find yourself in the position of needing to defend yourself following a DWI traffic stop, there are several ways you can go about doing it. If anything about your DWI stop seemed off, or if the arresting officer did anything beyond his or her scope of power, that information may help you seek a case dismissal or at least a reduction in charges.

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