If you have never been arrested for a drunk driving offense, you may not be familiar with the process that occurs after a police officer pulls you over. After the traffic stop has occurred and the field sobriety tests are complete, you may find yourself in police custody or under arrest. What led up to this point? Today, we explain the steps that come before a DWI charge for a Missouri resident.
There are three ways in which a police officer can initiate a traffic stop. First, the officer may have “probable cause” to believe that criminal activity is occurring. In this instance, an officer may observe someone throwing a beer bottle out of a moving vehicle. After initiating a traffic stop, the officer may find more empty beer bottles in the vehicle. The driver may be arrested — even without a breath test — because the officer has probable cause to believe that a DWI offense has occurred.
Officers can also directly observe someone commit a crime. For example, if a police officer sees someone driving their vehicle erratically and pulls the vehicle over, a Breathalyzer test may be administered. Direct observation could show the officer whether the driver’s blood alcohol content is higher than the legal limit in the state of Missouri. The driver can then be arrested for alleged DWI offenses.
Finally, officers can arrest a driver after conducting a legal traffic stop. In some cases, drunk driving defendants are accused of committing some traffic offense — such as running a red light or making an illegal u-turn — that will prompt a traffic stop. If the driver fails field sobriety tests at that time, an arrest may also be forthcoming.
Keep in mind that an arrest for drunk driving does not mean that the defendant is automatically considered guilty. Even if the person has previous convictions on his or her record, the defendant is entitled to a fair and unbiased legal proceeding. Officers must abide by the law when choosing to arrest a defendant for DWI offenses.
Source: FindLaw, “FindLaw: DUI Arrest” Aug. 05, 2014