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What Police Officers Look for When They Stop a DUI Suspect

If you recently spent a few hours with friends in a local Alameda bar, relaxing and having fun, you could later be shocked to find yourself being stopped and charged with DUI on your way home. Maybe you were having a beer and a meal at the Black Horse London on Union Street, or were partaking of beer served in buckets at The Bus Stop on Union. Or, perhaps you unexpectedly found yourself in the middle of an Alameda DUI checkpoint.


In the past, DUI checkpoints in Alameda, CA have been held on Union St. and Alameda Avenue, and on Park Street and Blanding Avenue.


It is important to recognize, however, that you could be stopped on your way home from a relaxing evening with your friends simply because you exhibited certain driving or behavior patterns commonly associated with impaired drivers. The two most important things you can do if charged with DUI is to avoid talking to the police other than to give your name and address, and to immediately request an attorney.

What Police Officers Are Looking for When They Stop a DUI Suspect

If you feel you were randomly stopped for suspicion of DUI, you can bet your driving patterns were the first observation made by the police officer. Next, your physical symptoms would have been observed, then your performance on field sobriety tests, and, finally, the results of your breath or blood test.

Excess speed is not in the top 20 driving patterns associated with DUI, which include:

  • Making an overly-wide turn
  • Straddling the center line
  • Swerving
  • Driving more than 10 mph below the speed limit
  • Stopping in traffic for no apparent reason
  • Drifting
  • Erratic braking patterns
  • Inconsistent signaling
  • Stopping in an inappropriate place
  • Stopping in an inappropriate manner
  • Having your headlights off when it is dark
  • Tailgating another driver

Behaviors to Watch For When You’re Pulled Over

Once you have been stopped, there are additional post-stop behaviors which can result in the officer asking you to participate in field sobriety tests or take a hand-held breathalyzer test.

These “cues” include:

  • Fumbling with your driver’s license or registration
  • Repeating the officer’s comments or questions
  • Exhibiting difficulty with the controls on your vehicle
  • Slurred speech
  • Being slow to respond to the officer’s questions
  • Swaying or appearing unsteady on your feet
  • Leaning on your vehicle
  • Providing incorrect answers to the police officer’s questions
  • Smelling of alcohol
  • Changing your answers

The Problems with Field Sobriety Tests

First of all, it is extremely important to know that participation in a field sobriety test is entirely voluntary. Further, there is little reason to participate in field sobriety tests, particularly because even totally sober people can have problems with the tests.

Factors that can skewer the results of a field sobriety test include:

  • Being overweight
  • Being elderly
  • Your level of physical activity
  • Having impaired balance
  • Being scared, or nervous
  • A history of leg or back injuries
  • Specific medications
  • Performing the test on a rocky or uneven surface
  • Suffering from a specific illness
  • Wearing high heels

It is also important to note that even among healthy individuals, the commonly-performed one-leg stand test is only considered to be about 65 percent accurate in determining impairment. Should you put your foot down, hop around in order to maintain your balance, use your arms for balance or sway while your foot is lifted (behaviors also exhibited by 100 percent sober individuals) you could find yourself being handcuffed and placed in the back of a police cruiser.

Getting the Legal Help You Need Following Alameda DUI Charges

Experienced Alameda DUI attorney, Nabiel Ahmed, will spend time looking for potential errors in your DUI case, questioning the administration and validity of the breathalyzer test. There may have been errors in your initial traffic stop as far as whether probable cause existed to pull you over.

There are often mistakes made during the stop and subsequent arrest which your attorney can use to your advantage. Field sobriety tests leave significant room for challenge if you agreed to participate. After thoroughly assessing the facts of your arrest, Attorney Nabiel Ahmed, will clearly explain your options, which could include a plea bargain, or a strong defense to the charges.

Call the Oakland Law Offices of Nabiel C. Ahmed today to set up a free review of your case. Call us at (510) 907-6600 for a free consultation and to start building a solid defense. We serve clients aggressively and effectively all over the East Bay, Alameda County, Contra Costa County, and more.


If you are already detained, we are available for phone consultations and jail interviews. Fill out a confidential contact form for a free, no-obligation consultation about your case, or call (510) 907-6600.


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