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How do police officers know when drivers are drunk?

Police officers never know for certain whether drivers are drunk simply by looking at them. This is why they have to perform detailed field sobriety tests, blood and urine analyses and Breathalyzer tests to know for sure.

That said, a police officer cannot simply perform these tests on a driver without sufficient cause for suspicion. In order for such a suspicion to arise, officers will look for specific signs of alcoholic intoxication.

The signs of drunkenness that police watch out for

Here are some of the tell-tale signs of drunkenness that police will look for:

  • Wearing rumpled, dirty or disheveled clothing.
  • Having an unshaved or uncombed appearance.
  • Having red, bloodshot or glassy eyes.
  • A red or flushed face.
  • Breath that smells strongly of alcohol.
  • Slurred or thick speech.

Field evidence that prosecutors may use against the driver

Police will use observations regarding the appearance, speaking ability and/or smell of a driver to make a determination about whether or he she could be drunk. They will then proceed to collect field evidence that prosecutors can later use against the driver in court.

Here are some types of field evidence that officers will collect:

  • Police testimony about the unusual driving they observed.
  • Police testimony about the conduct and/or appearance of the driver.
  • Police testimony about the performance of the driver on field sobriety tests.
  • Film, tapes and photographs of the driver, the tests and the scene.
  • Notes on incriminating statements that the driver makes.

What kind of evidence did police collect in your case?

The strength and/or weakness of your defense against drunk driving charges will largely depend on how compelling the evidence against you happens to be. After a detailed review of the evidence surrounding your case, you can determine whether it is appropriate to defend against the charges, in which case, you might be able to get your charges dropped, dismissed or receive a verdict of not guilty.

Alternatively, if the evidence against you is strong and a conviction is likely, you might want to consider reaching a plea bargain, in which case, you may be able to receive a reduction in punishments in exchange for pleading guilty.

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