Traffic Violation Leading to DUI

As part of the NHTSA training, officers are taught to be on the lookout for bad driving that may be a sign of impaired driving.  If the officer observes a driver weaving or driving very slowly you can bet that the officer will testify to those facts at a DUI trial.  Officers are trained to look for weaving, erratic braking, and not using a turn signal to name just a few of the signs of a possible impaired driver.

Why Does it Matter?

The officer’s observations are significant to a DUI charge for two vital reasons.  First, the officer’s observations form the legal basis for the police officer stopping the car.  If the officer did not have a valid legal basis to stop the car, then the evidence gathered after the stop should be suppressed (not allowed) and the case may be dismissed.  Second, the prosecutor will use the officer’s observations of poor driving as evidence that your driving was impaired.

How Will the Prosecutor Use It?

Like it or not, the prosecutor will use the police officer’s observations of impaired driving to bias the jury that the driver endangered the lives of others on the road on the day/night in question.  If the jury believes the driver was a danger, the jury is more likely to convict the suspect.  While poor driving is not PROOF that the driver was impaired, it is another piece of evidence, like the field sobriety “tests”.

Overcoming the Officer’s Observations

The officer’s testimony regarding observed driving errors can be detrimental to your case and must be challenged.  Based on the officer’s observations of poor driving, the prosecutor will try to convince the jury that the driver was under the influence.  A Carmel DUI attorney will test the officer’s testimony regarding the observed driving by getting the officer to admit that these same indicators of impairment while driving are made by sober drivers every day and are NOT evidence of impairment.  An experienced DUI lawyer will have the officer testify that he/she regularly write tickets for weaving, erratic breaking, and not using a turn signal to sober drivers.

Telling Your Story

An effective DUI attorney will offer the jury realistic reasons for poor driving, not just that the driver was impaired.  This will allow the jury to understand why the officer was wrong to believe you were impaired, biased against the driver, failed roadside “tests”, and/or made exaggerations in his incident report.

In addition to charging the driver with a DUI, police in Indiana normally add another traffic or criminal charge.  Usually it is the reason for the initial traffic stop, like speeding or weaving, and the basis for probable cause. 

The NHTSA SFST training includes over twenty (20) signs of impairment while driving.  Well guess what.  Speeding is not one of them.  Why?  Because speeding has nothing to do with alcohol impairment.  If the case proceeds to a trial an effective DUI attorney will cross examine the arresting officer.  In particular, the lawyer will ask the officer how many times he or she has ticketed a driver, and how many of those drivers were arrested for DUI.  If the officer says that speeding is a clue of impaired driving, the DUI defense lawyer will use the officer’s own NHTSA SFST training manual against the officer.  Because the manual is clear.  Speeding is NOT a sign of impaired driving.

Weaving, by itself, is not evidence of an impaired driver.  While weaving is a commonly cited in DUI arrests, there are a multitude of reasons that a driver may not drive in a straight line.  Answering a cell phone, an uneven road, or even mechanical issues are just a few examples.  Just watch your hands on the wheel the next time you are driving. 


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