Why Did I Get Pulled Over For That? The Who, What, When, Where, and Why of DUI

After reading scores of police reports for DUI investigations, it’s easy to spot trends in who gets pulled over, where, and why. Many clients are confused about why they were pulled over for what they consider minor traffic violations, and feel like they were targeted.

And they may have been. Law enforcement, for very good reason, is looking for people driving under the influence. Officers have been trained to find drunk or impaired drivers, and Tucson has a DUI squad whose primary objective is to get impaired drivers off the road. They are looking at a number of factors that make it likely that they will find drivers that are impaired. Put simply,

Night time + leaving an entertainment/dining area + driving error = greater possibility of DUI investigation.

It is true that DUI happens at all times of the day or night. It is also true that officers, especially DUI officers, are looking more closely for impaired drivers at night, when people are most likely to have consumed alcohol in a social setting. You can assume that officers are more alert to traffic violations (that may lead to DUI investigations) from “happy hour” after work, all the way past “last call” at 2 a.m..

It’s not just the time of day that you are driving, it’s also where you’re leaving, or the area you are driving in. Officers often position themselves to watch drivers leaving areas with a lot of bars and restaurants (like Downtown or 4th Ave.), or specific entertainment venues (concert venues, “gentlemen’s clubs”, sports arenas, casinos, etc.). Experienced DUI defense lawyers see a lot of the same intersections listed in clients’ police reports.

So what are they looking for? Reasonable suspicion that you have violated a law. A broken taillight, speeding, going under the speed limit,  weaving out of the lane, rapid acceleration, failure to signal, wide turn… these are some of the most common traffic violations that lead to DUI investigations. Law enforcement only needs one infraction, big or small, to pull you over. They cannot pull you over on a “hunch”, or because you’re leaving a bar, or because they think you look “suspicious”—but they can pull you over for a legitimate violation.

Once an officer has turned on the lights and siren, you should assume that they will be looking for signs of impairment. Before you have even pulled over, they are investigating—by noting whether or not you pull over appropriately. After they pull you over, as they are looking at your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance, they are also looking for red, watery eyes, the odor of alcohol or marijuana, how you take your ID out, and how you speak. They may also ask you where you are coming from/going to, and if you’ve had anything to drink. If they note, for instance, that you say you just left That Bar, and they also smell alcohol on your breath and they think you have slurred speech, they may then have reason to proceed with a DUI investigation. For more about what to do during a DUI investigation, read this blog post.

So what do you do? The easiest answer is, don’t drink and drive. Know that even if you think that your blood alcohol level is less than the .08 required for one of the DUI charges, you can still be charged for being impaired to the slightest degree. Get a cab, Uber, or Lyft. That $10 charge can save you thousands of dollars. For more information about what a DUI can cost, read this blog post. If you do find yourself cited for DUI, the sooner you talk to a DUI defense attorney, the better.

While the police cannot target you based on what you look like, what part of town you are in, or any number of factors that have nothing to do with your driving, be aware that it is easy enough for law enforcement to find a way to legally pull you over, as few of us are perfect drivers even on our best days. Officers are looking for far less than stereotypical drunk driving behavior, and most DUIs start out with small civil traffic violations. When it’s night time and people are leaving bars and restaurants and heading home, it’s primetime for DUI arrests.