Personal Contact with the DUI Suspect

Part 2 of 3 Regarding the Anatomy of a DUI Arrest

In the personal contact phase, law enforcement officers are making as many observations about the person as possible:  Do they detect the odor of alcohol, marijuana or some other form of intoxicant on the person?  Now remember, if someone is 21 years old it is not unlawful or illegal to drive after drinking, so having alcohol on your breath is not unlawful.  What is unlawful is to be affected to an appreciable degree by use of alcohol, drugs or a combination of both in Washington.  So evidence of use of those things (alcohol, marijuana, other intoxicants) in and of itself is not cause for DUI, but it is a link in the chain necessary to form probable cause for DUI. An experienced DUI Lawyer can help you navigate this scenario.

License and Registration Please

Normally officers will ask the driver for his/her license, registration and proof of insurance.  Understand that not only do they want to check those items, but law enforcement is also observing if you listened to what they asked you for, actually provided those items, and will note if it took you a long time to produce those items.  Now it is certainly not unusual to have difficulty locating vehicle registration or insurance cards, as many people just throw them in a glove compartment with a bunch of other “stuff”, and it is certainly fair to point that out.  Also, sometimes people are nervous and fumble for their driver’s license a bit—but understand that they will note it and use it against you.  Now officers are also looking for things like blood shot watery eyes, flushed face, slurred speech, soiled clothing, or anything else that points to the possibility of impairment on the part of the driver.

DUI Questioning

In a DUI trial, it is certainly fair to point out the absence of these things to demonstrate that someone was not impaired.  Also, you must bear in mind that officers will be asking questions related to the possibility of impairment.  For example, have you been drinking today?  Do you feel tired at all?  How many drinks have you had?  How many hours of sleep did you get the night before? Do you suffer from any medical conditions? If so, what are they? Do you have any current physical injuries or limitations that could affect you? These are all questions relevant to whether you are driving under the influence.  It is at this point that the officer has to make a decision about whether or not to proceed to the next phase – the pre-arrest screening.

If you are looking for more information on what to do during a DUI stop, see our blog post.