Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Virginia is punished severely and has mandatory minimum penalties. In order to arrest someone for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs in Virginia, the officer needs probable cause that the driver was operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. There are a number of ways that a police officer can develop probable cause for a DUI arrest in Virginia, including erratic driving behavior, admissions to drinking or taking drugs, appearance of intoxication, performance on Field Sobriety Tests, and Preliminary Breath Test results.
How Police Officers Determine Probable Cause for a DUI Arrest in Virginia
Erratic Driving Behavior
- Problems Maintaining Proper Lane Position include weaving, straddling lane lines, swerving, making wide turns, drifting in a turn or within a lane, and near collisions.
- Speeding and Braking Problems include stopping too far from a curb, stopping at weird angles, stopping past the traffic line, sudden stops, improper changes in speed, and driving too slowly.
- Vigilance Problems include driving in the wrong lane, slow responses to traffic signals or a police officer’s signal, stopping in a lane for no reason, driving without headlights, and improper signaling.
- Judgment Problems include following another vehicle too closely, making unsafe lane changes, making an improper turn, driving off the road, improper stopping in response to a police signal, unusual behavior (throwing something from the car, urinating on the roadside, arguing with another driver, being disorderly) and appearing impaired (gripping the steering wheel tightly, driving with face close to the windshield, slouching in the seat, or staring straight ahead with eyes fixed).
For more information on driving behaviors establishing probable cause for a DUI arrest in Virginia, click here.
Admissions to Drinking or Taking Drugs
If the driver made any statements about drinking alcohol or taking drugs (whether legal or illegal), this evidence can establish probable cause that the driver was under the influence.
Appearance of Intoxication
An odor of alcohol, slurred speech, and glassy or blood shot eyes indicate that a driver may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs and establish probable cause for a DUI arrest in Virginia. Probable cause for a DUI arrest in Virginia can also be established if there is evidence that alcohol consumption affected the driver’s speech, manner, disposition, muscular movement, general appearance or behavior.
Field Sobriety Tests
Field Sobriety Tests are another tool the police use to develop probable cause for a DUI arrest in Virginia. Field Sobriety Tests are divided attention tests and they are used to determine if a driver can pay attention to instructions and perform physical tasks simultaneously. The theory is that individuals who are under the influence cannot divide their attention between listening to directions and performing physical acts. There are a number of cues that the police officer is trained to look for in each test to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest in Virginia. Exhibiting a certain number of cues on each test indicates that the driver has a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) higher than .08% and is under the influence of alcohol.
The common Field Sobriety Tests used in Virginia are the walk-and-turn, the one leg stand, and HGN test.
- Walk-and-Turn: The walk-and-turn test requires the driver to walk nine steps in a straight line, heel to toe. He then must turn around and walk nine steps back, heel to toe.
- One Leg Stand: Another divided attention test is the one leg stand. It requires the driver to lift one leg 6 inches off of the ground and hold it there until the officer tells him that he can put it down. He must count out loud the whole time as instructed.
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): The third standardized Field Sobriety Test in Virginia is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test. It is designed to detect an involuntary jerking in the driver’s eyes as they move from side to side. This eye jerking indicates impairment because people under the influence of alcohol will exhibit the eye jerking at less extreme angles than people who are not impaired.
For more information on Field Sobriety Tests in Virginia, click here.
Preliminary Breath Test
The Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) is part of field sobriety tests, but it is not a divided attention test. The PBT is a breath test taken on the side of the road to measure a driver’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) and establish probable cause for a DUI arrest in Virginia. If the PBT detects ANY alcohol, the police officer has probable cause to arrest the driver. The PBT is voluntary and drivers can refuse to take the test. Because the PBT is voluntary, the results cannot be used as evidence against the driver. PBT results will come in to court, however, if the driver challenges probable cause for a DUI arrest in Virginia.
For more information on Preliminary Breath Tests (PBTs) in Virginia, click here.
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