Virginia DUI Stops 

Officers often watch the roads to ensure that people are observing traffic laws. It is only when people begin to drive erratically that law enforcement will act. Once an individual is stopped, if the police feel that the person is driving while drunk, then what started as a routine traffic stop, evolves into a DUI stop. Virginia DUI stops can have serious consequences and can culminate in financial and carceral penalties.  If you face DUI charges, seek the counsel of an experienced DUI attorney who can fight for you and defend you against these charges.

Typical DUI Stop

The first thing that happens during a Virginia DUI stop is the officer activating their emergency equipment, which will involve their lights at a minimum and sometimes their siren, until such time that the person submits to the officer’s authority and pulls over. Once that has happened, the officer will make contact with the defendant. At that point, they will be looking at a number of things including the driver’s smell, the way the driver is speaking, and the ease or difficulty they have retrieving their driver’s license or registration.

Essentially the officer at that point is looking for any indicators that a person may be under the influence. If they believe that they are and then generally, even if they just smell alcohol, that would be enough to allow them to investigate further. They will then ask the defendant to step out of the vehicle and to perform field sobriety test. The whole point of the field sobriety test is to help build probable cause that the person is in fact under the influence. These tests will be explained to the driver, they will then be administered.

The officer, in many cases, will have video running at this point and will be making notes of what is happening during the stop. If the officer then believes based on the field sobriety test that the person is under the influence, they are required under Virginia law to offer them a handheld breath test there at the side of the road. If the person does take the test and it shows a presence of alcohol, that will be used to support probable cause for arrest. At that point the person is typically then arrested, they are taken to the police station, and after a waiting period of typically 20 to 30 minutes, they will be administered a breath test, which is the one that will be used ultimately in court.

Will the Officer Want to Search the Vehicle?

If a person is arrested, the officer will definitely search the vehicle. Anytime a person is arrested for DUI, their vehicle is going to be, in most cases, impounded and the officer must make what is called an inventory search of the vehicle to catalog all of the property that is inside of the vehicle at the time of the arrest. Of course, if they discover any contraband or any illegal substances during that search or any other evidence of a crime, then they are allowed to investigate that and in some cases that will result in additional charges.

Do People Need to Consent to a Search of Their Vehicle During a Traffic Stop?

No one is ever required to consent and no one ever should consent to a search. That having been said, if an officer has a probable cause for a search or it is a search pursuant to a lawful arrest, then they do in fact have the right to search. But no one should ever consent to that as it certainly is possible that a search can be challenged later and any challenge the person’s attorney might make to the search is going to be decided by the government if the person has consented to that search.

Causes for Stopping Drivers

There are two broad categories of things that are going to cause officers to initiate Virginia DUI stops. The first is that anytime an officer observes either a crime or traffic infraction being committed, that gives them the right to stop the vehicle. Once they have stopped the vehicle, if they detect evidence of DUI then they can investigate further and ultimately charge someone with DUI if the facts support it. The second scenario is that the officer develops what is called a reasonable suspicion that a DUI is underway.

There are a variety of things that an officer can be looking for under those circumstances, whether it is someone that is weaving in their lane, whether it is someone who is driving too slowly or someone who is starting and stopping too quickly or doing other erratic things that lead an officer to suspect that the person may be under the influence. If that is the case, they then have the ability to stop that vehicle, speak to the driver, and either confirm or dispel the suspicion that a DUI may be taking place.

Questions Police Will Ask

The officer is going to ask the person whether they have been drinking and if so, how much they have had to drink. They may ask some other questions like where are they coming from and where are they heading. If they do not believe any answers that they are receiving, they may ask other questions to try to trip a person up. But in general, they will be asking questions that are related to alcohol consumption.

Tests Officers Administer

Field sobriety tests are the primary tests that will be administered during Virginia DUI stops. The three most common are a horizontal gaze nystagmus, which is a test where a person has to follow either a pen or the officer’s finger with their eyes; a one-legged stand, which involves standing on one leg and counting up to 30; and the nine step walk and turn, which involves taking nine steps out and nine steps back all the while with an officer observing and looking for clues that may show that a person is impaired.

Benefit of an Attorney

Virginia DUI stops can have long-term consequences for an individual. DUI stops usually result in an arrest and charges. Those charges could potentially result in a conviction complete with penalties including fines and jail time. If you face DUI charges, contact a local DUI attorney whose familiarity with local policies can serve as a huge asset. Reach out to a lawyer who can work to try and achieve the best possible outcome for you.