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During a Police Stop, What Is the Officer Likely to do if He or She Suspects the Driver Is Impaired?

Interviewer: If someone in that position gets stopped by a police officer for an incomplete stop, what does a police officer say to them typically when they want to see if they’re under the influence? What happens during that process and what should the person say and do?

Brian Sloan: There may not be anything that the person can do. If an officer has a valid reason to do a traffic stop and they have reasonable suspicion to believe that some sort of traffic offense or crime has occurred, they’re allowed to pull a vehicle over, they’re allowed to approach that vehicle and ask for the license, registration and insurance.

Most usually, when the officer is standing there at the window and waiting for the license, registration and insurance, they will start engaging in a conversation.

Police Receive Training on Observing Signs of Possible Impairment from Drugs or Alcohol

They’ll ask the person how much they’ve had to drink. They may ask if they have ingested any drugs. They are looking for signs and symptoms that may be consistent with alcohol impairment or drug use, such as bloodshot and watery eyes, an odor of alcohol, an odor of burnt marijuana or fresh marijuana, to see if the person is slurring their speech, to see if the person can do two things at once.

Can they talk to the officer while looking for their registration in their glove box? Can they hold onto their license or are they having a hard time picking it up? These are all the things that officers are looking for to determine whether there is more to this stop than simply making a wide turn. The officer is looking for things that they can identify as reasonable suspicion to launch into a DUI investigation.

Should You Consent to a Search of Your Vehicle during a Police Stop?

Interviewer: Can they search the vehicle?

Brian Sloan: They’re not supposed to search a vehicle. The only way that they are really allowed to search a vehicle is because the suspect or the person that has been stopped consents to it.

If the person is arrested and they’re going to tow the vehicle, then they are allowed to do a search incident to arrest and basically a search for inventory procedures. When push comes to shove, if an officer wants to find a reason to search a vehicle, chances are they’ll find one.

If You Are Taking Prescribed Medication, Should You Mention This to the Officer during a Police Stop?

Interviewer: Have you noticed that if someone is on prescription medication, will they automatically admit to it right as soon as they’re questioned by the police officer immediately?

Brian Sloan: Sure. People are their own worst enemies. They admit to everything. If the officer is being friendly to them, they feel they need to be friendly back and be very open and honest with officers.

Chances are they were taught as a kid that honesty is the best policy and police officers are your friends, but they’re there to do a job. They’re there to collect evidence against you.

Frequently, people hurt their cases because they talked too much. They answered the officer’s question. They say what they’ve been taking, legal or illegally, how much they’ve taken, when they last took it; it doesn’t affect their ability to drive. Most of the evidence that the prosecutor will use against someone at trial is evidence the driver admitted to when talking to the officer.

By Brian Douglas Sloan

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Why Brian Douglas Sloan?
AZ DUI Defense Lawyer Brian Douglas Sloan
  • 13+ Years SOLELY Focused on DUI Defense
  • Represented 2,600+ DUI Clients
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  • Top One Percent in the Nation"
    National Association of Distinguished Counsel
  • “Top 10 DUI Lawyers in Arizona”
    National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys
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    American Institute of DUI/DWI Attorneys
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  • Preeminent “4.9 / 5.0” -- Martindale-Hubbell
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