Police officers throughout the country are allowed the authority to identify, detain, and arrest people suspected of committing crimes. Among the many offenses for which they patrol the streets and highways, few are as damaging as deadly and drunk driving. Learn how police officers make a DUI arrest and what rights you are entitled to if you are charged with this crime.
The Definition of a Driving Under the Influence Arrest
The drinking and driving laws in America vary from state to state. However, they generally lay out the definitions of and punishments for a first offense DUI as well as subsequent charges and convictions. Regardless of whether you are being accused of a DUI first offense or you have faced DWI charges before, you must first be arrested by a member of law enforcement.
The drunk driving laws in all 50 states define an arrest as an act that permits a police officer to take a person into custody. The person being arrested at that point no longer has the ability to leave the scene or move around freely.
The officer can use restraints like handcuffs or zip ties if needed. Otherwise, the person under arrest may remain unrestrained as long as he or she is cooperating with and presents no danger to law enforcement.
Submission to the police can be either voluntary or involuntary. Regardless, the arrest allows the police to exercise authority over the person suspected of driving under the influence.
After you have been arrested for DWI, you must be Mirandized or read your rights. As part of those Constitutional rights, you are entitled to hire a DWI lawyer to represent you from the very onset of your DUI case. Your DWI lawyer can then ensure that the police utilized one of the approved means for placing you under arrest.
Eyewitness to DUI
Police have the right to arrest you if they actually see you driving under the influence. If they witness you driving erratically, weaving in and out of traffic, frequently driving over the rumble strips on the roadway’s shoulder, or engaging in other alarming driving behaviors, they can pull you over and submit you to a field sobriety test.
If the test proves that you have a high blood alcohol content, or BAC level, you can be placed under arrest and charged with driving while intoxicated. Of course, if the officer sees you drinking an alcoholic beverage or using illegal drugs while driving, he or she can likewise detain and arrest you for driving under the influence of alcohol or illicit substances.
You can also be arrested for either a misdemeanor DUI or a felony DUI if the officer has probable cause to suspect you are driving while inebriated. The probable cause must be based on facts rather than circumstantial evidence. It must also justify the officer detaining and arresting you on suspicion of DUI.
Probable cause can include the police seeing you toss a beer bottle out of the window while you are driving down the highway. It can also include the police officer seeing beer bottles in the backseat of your vehicle while he or she has you pulled over for a traffic offense.
Based on this evidence, the officer can ask that you undergo a sobriety test like a breathalyzer or a walk and turn test. If you fail the test or refuse to take it, you can legally be placed under arrest for suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
If you believe that the police did not have probable cause to detain and arrest you, you should hire a DWI lawyer to take your case. Your attorney can review the reasons for why you were stopped and asked to undergo a field sobriety test.
Legal Traffic Stop
As noted, the police can pull you over and determine if you are drunk or high if you break any of the traffic laws in your city or state. For example, if you run a red light or a stop sign or you fail to yield to oncoming traffic, you can be stopped and not only issued a ticket for the traffic infraction but also face arrest if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
In this scenario, your initial detainment had nothing to do with you being drunk or high but rather your neglect to obey the traffic laws. In the course of questioning and issuing you a ticket, however, the officer discovered your inebriated state and legally placed you under arrest.
Finally, a police officer can place you under arrest if he or she has a warrant to do so. A judge or magistrate must issue the warrant before you can be placed under arrest.
Before the actual warrant can be put out for you, however, the police officer involved in or assigned to your case must first provide the judge or magistrate a sworn statement to set the basis for your arrest. Additionally, the warrant must include key details about you or the offense including:
- the specific crime that you committed
- your name
- the address of where you live or can be found
- written permission for law enforcement to place you under arrest
The officer must also show you the warrant if you ask to see it. If you are arrested without a warrant being issued for you, you could ask the court to drop the charges against you.
Challenging a Charge of Driving Under the Influence
You should remember that you have Constitutional rights guaranteed to you if you are arrested for and charged with a DWI. While you may know the basic Miranda rights, you may not be aware of other rights to which you are entitled, such as the right to avoid incriminating yourself or going through questioning without a lawyer present.
From the time that you are arrested, it is important to hire an attorney who can help you build a strong and indisputable DUI defense to take to court. You could face any number of drunk driving penalties that can range from paying a steep DUI fine to actually serving time in prison. If this is not your first DUI conviction, you could also be sentenced to a lengthy DUI license suspension that could make it difficult or impossible for you to drive to work, school, or anywhere else you need to go.
Because of the negative impact, this conviction can have on your life and that of your immediate family, it is vital that you retain a good lawyer who can review the facts of your case and make sure that you are legally detained and arrested. Your attorney may find that the arresting officer did not have probable cause to pull you over, for example, or that you did not break any laws that merited a traffic stop.
Based on the facts that your lawyer uncovers while representing you, you could have the charges against you lowered or dropped entirely. Even if the charges are upheld, you could take a plea bargain or avoid the worst penalties when you have a skilled DWI attorney arguing your case.
Driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol remains a serious offense in all 50 states. Even so, you are guaranteed Constitutional rights if you are stopped and arrested for this crime.
Police have to use one of the applicable reasons for stopping you in the first place and placing you under arrest for DWI. If you believe that you have been wrongly charged or that your rights have been violated, you can hire an attorney to represent you. Your lawyer can ensure that you are not subjected to false imprisonment or wrongful search and seizure of your car and property.