Written by attorney Robert Keates

Walkthrough & Overview of a Typical Austin Texas DWI Arrest - PART 1 of 2

Walkthrough & Overview of a Typical Austin DWI Arrest The Driving: Most DWi arrest occur while a person is driving on a street or highway. It is true many DWI's originate in parking lots or while an officer is watching the exit of a bar, but most DWIs are the result of bad driving on the road. Except for the DWI cases where a person is truly intoxicated and "all over the road," typically an officer observes a driver make one or two driving mistakes late at night that leads to a suspicion by the officer. The most common driving mistakes include swerving across the yellow lines, driving onto the shoulder, or speeding. When an officer sees such suspected dwi driving, he or she will being to take metal notes of any driving errors, even if they are so minor a driver would not be stopped under normal conditions. Good examples would be a rolling stop through a stop sign, failure to signal lane changes, and even braking. The way the officer will use that infomration at trial is as follows: "Your honor, Jury, I observed the defendant speeding and swerving across the yellow line. It caught my attention because there are so many Bars in the area, so when I saw the defendant not using the turn signal, it made me think he/she was drunk since many DWI drivers -- in my experience -- do not use turn signals." The truth is that most people do not use turn signals, and that has no bearing on whether a person may or may not be drunk. The Traffic Stop: It is common for a police officer to follow a suspected DWI driver for a short period of time to gauge the driving, especially in areas or times where road traffic is light. Often the officer will pull right behind the vehicle, waiting for that nervousness to kick in when the driver sees the squad car. A normal reaction, whether or not the driver has been consuming alcohol, is to swerve or lose attention for a moment upon noticing the police car -- an action that is sure to be noted in the police report and used as fodder for the DWI charge. Once the officer has enough observations to sustain pulling over the vehicle, the police officer will initiate the overhead lights and sometimes siren. If the driver yet to realize an officer is trailing, the lights and siren will be sure to extract a startled response, again in the form of momentary loss of concentration and possible driving error. Once the lights are activate and the driver notices, the next big step is a DWI arrest is the stop. Most people are taught to pull over when they notice an officer trying to stop them, but few people are aware that the officer is closely observing "how" the driver pulls over. On a DWI stop, the officer is taking mental notes of how suddenly or slowly the driver pulls over to the curb or shoulder, where they pull over, and whether they are a sufficient distance from either the edge of the roadway or curb. Likewise, if the car is not exactly perpendicular to the curb or roadside, that information will be used to bolster the officer's opinion of DWI. For instance, a possible Officer testifying at the DWI trial could say: "I initiated by overhead lights, and observed the driver swerve her vehicle to the right, almost to the shoulder. She braked suddenly, almost slamming on them, and skidded to the shoulder. The way she stopped her car indicated to me through my experience, that she was having difficultly concentrating -- she pulled the car onto the shoulder at an angle, with the rear end of the car just a few feet from the roadside, in a dangerous manner." The Driver's License Exchange & Initial Officer Observations: As the officer approaches the suspected DWI driver's car, the officer will continue looking for clues of intixication. One of the first things the police will do as the driver rolls down the window is check for the smell of alcohol, While alcohol itself has no smell, an officer will testfy that an alcoholic drink's flavoring does has a distinct odor, which if present, will be noted in a report. Almost simultaneously with the nose check for odor of alcohol, is the visual inspection of the driver. This includes the driver's immediate appearance (disheveled, sweating) as well as physical demeanor (confused or aloof, dazed, giddy). Also taken into consuderation are the driver's eyes, whether red or bloodshot, breath smell, attention, and any flailing about or slumping. The officer will typically ask for a driver's license and insurance card, but the method by which the driver gathers the requested documents will be under intense scrutiny. The officer will be looking to further his or her DWI suspected conclusion by searching for the driver looking for the documents in several areas (saying he/ she cannot remember where it is located due to DWI alcohol impariment), looking for the driver to fumble or drop the paperwork (loss of coordination as a sign of DWI), or extreme nervousness as counciousness of DWI guilt.

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