Oklahoma's Oldest DUI Defense Firm

Attorneys Stephen G. Fabian Jr. and Brian P. Young

What happens during a suspected drunk driving stop?

On Behalf of | Mar 27, 2024 | DUI - Drunk Driving |

Seeing the flashing lights of a police vehicle can invoke feelings of fear in some drivers, even if they don’t feel they’ve done anything wrong. For someone who’s had a couple drinks, that fear exponentially multiplies.

Understanding what may happen during a traffic stop can benefit someone who’s being accused of drunk driving because it takes some of the uncertainty out of the situation.

Initial stop and observation

A drunk driving stop typically begins when an officer observes signs of impaired driving, such as swerving, speeding or violating traffic laws. After pulling the vehicle over, the officer will approach the driver and engage in a brief conversation, looking for signs of intoxication such as slurred speech, the smell of alcohol or visible alcohol containers in the car. This initial interaction is crucial, as it sets the stage for further investigation based on the officer’s observations.

Field sobriety tests

If the officer suspects the driver is under the influence, they may request the driver perform field sobriety tests. These tests can include the three components of a standardized field sobriety test, the one-leg stand, horizontal gaze nystagmus and walk-and-turn. These are designed to assess the driver’s balance, coordination and ability to follow instructions, which can be impaired by alcohol or drug use.

Breathalyzer test

Following the field sobriety tests, or sometimes in lieu of them, the officer may administer a breathalyzer test to measure the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher in Oklahoma is illegal. Refusing a breathalyzer test post-arrest can result in automatic license suspension under Oklahoma’s implied consent laws because drivers are presumed to have consented to such testing when they obtain a driver’s license.

Arrest and booking

If the evidence, possibly including the officer’s observations, field sobriety test results and breathalyzer readings, suggests that the driver is indeed under the influence, an officer can make an arrest for drunk driving. At this point, the motorist needs to consider their criminal defense strategy, which often requires the assistance of a legal representative.