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What to expect during DUI traffic stops

One of the most common criminal charges people face is a DUI charge. Under Virginia law, you are not permitted to drive if you have a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher. However, even if your BAC level is under .08, you may still be arrested for a DUI if an officer believes that you are impaired behind the wheel. It is important to know what to expect if you get pulled over for drunk driving.

Typically, an officer will stop your vehicle if they see that you are driving erratically. If you were driving negligently (e.g. swerving, failing to follow traffic laws, speeding), the officer may suspect drunk driving. The officer will then observe you. The officer will note any physical signs of impairment (e.g. bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, smell of alcohol on your breath).

If the officer suspects drunk driving, he may ask you to submit to a field sobriety test. These tests may include walking in a straight line, reciting the alphabet backwards or other physical and mental activities. If you are unsuccessful at any of the tests, the officer may ask you to submit to a chemical test. Breathalyzers are the most commonly used and can measure the amount of alcohol in your body. It is important to note that you are allowed to refuse to take a breath test. However, this does not come without consequences. If you refuse to submit to the test, your license will likely be suspended for a year.

If you are charged with a DUI, the results of your chemical test may be used to convict you. If your results show that your blood alcohol level was above the legal limit, it will be up to you to convince the judge that you were not impaired at the time of the accident or that the officers that pulled you over behaved inappropriately. For example, many cases are thrown out due to an improper traffic stop. This means that the officer did not have probable cause to stop you in the first place. If your defense is successful, your DUI charges may be dismissed altogether.

Source: FindLaw, "DUI Traffic Stop FAQs," accessed on Nov. 28, 2016

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