In the course of representing clients in DUI matters, we see four situations come up over and over. These are the situations that most frequently cause the police to come into contact with a driver who has been drinking.
It is worth repeating here that most DUI charges do not require the prosecution to prove any impairment. A driver does not need to be impaired to be charged with a DUI. If a driver has a blood alcohol concentration over .08, it is presumed the driver is impaired, regardless of whether or not the driver is actually impaired. The situations described below are situations that cause a driver to come into contact with law enforcement. Impairment is not necessarily a factor. Once a driver comes into contact with law enforcement though, the police are going to be on the lookout for alcohol. It’s what they do. And if a driver has had any alcohol, regardless of whether or not they are impaired, they may be facing a DUI.
1. Traffic Accidents.
Any time there is an accident, there is a good chance that there will be police contact. When the police show up, they are going to be looking for the cause of the accident. An impaired driver is always going to be on the police’s short list of possible causes. Even if the driver who had been drinking did not cause the accident, the driver can still get a DUI. If the driver is transported to the ER, the hospital will likely draw blood as a matter of policy. The police will then get a warrant for that blood and test it. If alcohol is present, a DUI ticket will be issued, regardless of fault in the accident.
2. 911 Calls.
It is not uncommon for other drivers to call 911 when they see someone driving erratically. If a driver sees another driver weaving in and out of their lane, or driving in an aggressive manner, they may call the police. Once the police receive this call, along with a description of the vehicle, a license plate number, and a general location, then the police will attempt to locate the suspect driver. If the police are actually able to locate the driver, they will usually follow the driver for a little bit to see if the driver repeats the reported behavior. If the police witness the reported behavior, then the police will initiate a traffic stop and make the DUI investigation.
3. Minor (or major) Traffic Violations.
Police are often looking for any reason at all to initiate a traffic stop. Some of the minor traffic violations that many of us commit every day could end in a DUI if there is any alcohol involved. Examples include:
- Wide Turn. When you make a turn, you are supposed to turn into the lane nearest you. For example if you are turning left onto a road with 3 lanes in your direction of travel, you should turn into the number 1 lane, the lane furthest to the left. Drivers often turn into the number 3 lane, the far right lane, especially if they are preparing to make a quick right turn into a parking lot. This sort of behavior seems common enough, but if a police officer is behind you, it could be the basis for a traffic stop.
- Speeding. A few miles per hour over the posted limit could be enough for a police officer to initiate a traffic stop. Certainly any speed that qualifies as excessive speed (more than 20 mph over the limit) is going to draw the attention of the police.
- Not Speeding. If a driver is traveling substantially under the speed limit, this could attract a police officer’s attention.
- Changing lanes without a blinker. Technically, we are supposed to signal before we change lanes. We often don’t.
4. Wrong Place and Time.
Now, being in the wrong place at the wrong time usually also involves a minor traffic violation. Theoretically, the police have to observe some sort of violation, however minor, in order to initiate a traffic stop. This assumes everyone is truthful and police never fabricate a reason to pull someone over.
Some examples of the wrong place at the wrong time include:
- Mill Avenue at 2:30 a.m. on a Friday night/Saturday morning.
- Old Town Scottsdale at 2:30 a.m. on a Friday night/Saturday morning.
If you were to drive through one of the above locations at 8:00 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, it would not qualify as wrong place, wrong time. However, if you were to drive through one of the above places at the above times, it is definitely the wrong place and wrong time, especially if you’ve had anything to drink. There is a heavy police presence during these times. Police in those locations are primed to be looking for DUIs. Police will use any minor traffic violation as an excuse to pull over the driver and hunt for a DUI.