What Happens When You Get Pulled Over for a DUI?

Getting Pulled Over for Drunk Driving

Getting pulled over and being suspected of drinking and driving can be an upsetting experience. Not knowing what your rights are when you are stopped can substantially add to your stress levels. The officers will be making observations throughout the situation, so it’s important to know how they will conduct their investigation from the stop through your potential DUI/DWI arrest and release.

If you are suspected of drunk driving and get stopped by the police, expect:

  • The stop
  • Initial Investigation
  • Roadside Tests
  • Arrest
  • Release

Knowing the procedure police will follow and your rights may be the difference in charges being dismissed and having a DUI or DWI charge on your record.

Law Enforcement Stop

A police officer can pull you over for a number of reasons. They may have seen you swerving or it could be for a simple traffic violation, such as a broken tail light. As soon as they have made their decision to pull you over, especially if they think you have been drinking or using drugs, they will start to make note of any observations they make.

When the police officer gets to your car they will begin by asking you for your license and registration. If the officer already has reasonable suspicion that you have been driving under the influence, they will be looking for signs of impairment such as slurred speech, the smell of alcohol, or red eyes to add to their police report.

Tips for When You Are Pulled Over

If you are being pulled over, avoid making a bad situation worse. Keep these tips in mind to keep yourself safe and avoid escalating the situation.

  • Find a safe place to pull over
  • Don’t make any sudden or suspicious movements
  • Be polite

If it is found that the police officer had no reason to pull you over, you can file a motion to suppress in court. This may lead to the entire case being dismissed.

DUI/DWI Investigation

If, during the stop, the police officer has established reasonable suspicion that you have been driving under the influence, they will continue their investigation. Police officers can ask you if you have been drinking, how much you drank, what you drank, and when you had your last drink.

The police officer will be making notes of any observations they make to prove their suspicions in the police report. They will note any nervousness or other behavior that indicates that you have been drinking.

If they believe they have confirmed that you have been drinking they will ask you to perform roadside field tests.

Roadside tests

At this point, the officer who pulled you over will be gathering evidence to use in court. Roadside tests allow an officer to observe your level of impairment and get an estimate of your blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

Generally, police will conduct two kinds of voluntary tests to gather this evidence. They can conduct a field sobriety test (FST) and a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS)

Field Sobriety Test (FST)

Field sobriety tests are used to physically observe the level of impairment of the driver. A police officer will have you step out of your car and perform several activities that can generally be performed at an acceptable level by someone who has not been drinking.

Common field sobriety tests include:

  • One-leg stand
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)
  • Walk and turn

Keep in mind is that you are under no legal obligation to perform a field sobriety test. Refusing to perform an FST may lead to your license being suspended. Even if you pass a field sobriety test, the officer may not let you go at this point.

Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) tests

Police officers use a PAS device (also called a portable breath test) to measure your blood alcohol concentration. PAS tests are usually not as reliable as blood tests that may be performed at a police station or hospital. They allow the officer to quickly assess your level of impairment to see if there is probable cause for a DUI/DWI arrest.

Arrested for DUI

If the officer who stopped you has reason to believe they have probable cause for an arrest they can detain you and take you to the police station.

Here they will most likely:

  • Book you and cite you for the offense
  • Read you your Miranda rights
  • Inform you about implied consent
  • Take away your license and provide you with a temporary permit
  • Hold you until you are bailed out or a judge releases you on your own recognizance

Implied Consent & Mandatory Chemical tests

There is an “implied consent” law in all 50 states that require anyone arrested for a DUI or DWI to submit to a chemical test. Usually, in the form of a blood or breath test, a chemical test is used to find out the amount of drugs or alcohol in a person’s system.

Police officers are required to inform you about implied consent laws. If they do not, be sure to remember this as it may be helpful for your defense.

If you refuse to submit to these tests you could face the following consequences:

  • Fines
  • Suspension of your license
  • Installing an ignition interlock device (IID)


Upon release, the staff at the police station should return any personal belongings that are not being used as evidence. If you are informed you can pick up your vehicle you must wait at least 12 hours before you can get it from the tow yard.

As soon as possible write down all the details you can remember about everything that happened during the entire process, starting with being pulled over. Write down every detail; even if you don’t think it may be relevant, it could be useful for your lawyer as they help you put together your DUI/DWI defense.

Things to write down:

  • Where and what you were doing before you were pulled over
  • How long after drinking you were stopped
  • How much you drank
  • When, and if, you were read your Miranda rights
  • If you were not informed about implied consent laws
  • The officer’s behavior and instructions they gave you

The Police Report

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence, you will probably be eager to see the police report. Unfortunately, the police report isn’t provided until the arraignment, your first day in court. During the discovery process, a lawyer can use the police report to get the police officer’s side of the story regarding your case.

Hire a DUI/DWI Lawyer

Being charged with a DUI or DWI is a serious offense that could lead to jail time, fines, or both. Hiring an experienced and understanding lawyer to evaluate your case and defend you is your best course of action.

The lawyers at Rosenberg | Perry & Associates are experienced criminal defense attorneys with deep experience working DUI/DWI cases to achieve the best possible outcomes. Contact us for a free consultation to speak about the details of your case to see how we can help you!