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Police Are Trained to Watch for Specific Signs of OWI

As we discussed in an earlier post, an Iowa law enforcement officer must have a reasonable suspicion of illegal conduct in order to perform an OWI traffic stop. If a court later determines the officer did not have sufficient grounds to pull the driver over, the stop will be deemed an illegal stop and any charges resulting from the stop could be dismissed.

Law enforcement authorities have given some thought to the question of what constitutes a reasonable basis for a suspicion for driving while intoxicated. A publication of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides a number of examples of driving behaviors that will justify an officer pulling a driver over on suspicion of OWI.

Weaving - moving back and forth laterally within the roadway - is probably the classic indicator of driving under the influence. Weaving occurs when a driver repeatedly drifts to one side of the road, then over-corrects and drifts to the other side. Similar behaviors include drifting to the edge of the roadway and then swerving suddenly to get back on the road or straddling the centerline.

Other indicators include almost hitting another vehicle or object, suddenly braking or changing speed for no apparent reason or stopping too far back or forward at a red light or stop sign. Making excessively wide turns, driving without lights at night and failing to signal turns are other indicators of possible drunk driving.

According to statistics provided by Monroe & King, P.A., a DUI defense firm in Jacksonville, 83% of people who fail a one-leg stand test will have a BAC above the legal limit, and 88% of people who fail a horizontal gaze nystagmus test will have a BAC above the legal limit. These are a few additional methods (known as field sobriety tests) that police will use to test a driver when they suspect intoxication.

Common Indicators of Alcohol Intoxication 

When the arresting officer can point to none of these recognized indicators as a basis for stopping a driver, it raises the question whether the reasonable suspicion standard was met. A driver facing OWI charges can consult with a knowledgeable defense lawyer about this and other potential defenses. This could help the driver with his or her defense, assisting with reducing or dismissing the charges against them.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "The Visual Detection of DWI Motorists," accessed Sept. 21, 2015

Categories
  • The Iowa State Bar Association
  • DUI Defense Law
  • NACDL
  • AAJ
  • Iowa Association of Justice

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    Decades of Award-Winning Legal Service J. Dean Keegan was born and raised in Waterloo, Iowa. After high school, Dean served ...
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    Highly Rated Criminal Defense in Iowa City Eric D. Tindal, attorney at Keegan, Tindal & Jaeger, graduated from the University ...
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  • Andrea D. Jaeger Andrea D. Jaeger

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    Experienced Criminal Defense in the Iowa and Illinois Quad Cities Andrea D. Jaeger practices in federal and state courts, ...
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    Henry County FECR005634. Attorney Tindal’s client was charged with First Degree Murder and Child Endangerment Causing Death. Following a two week trial, the Defendant was acquitted of all charges.

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    Linn County AGCR108044. Attorney Dean Keegan's client was charged with Carrying Weapons, Public Intoxication, and Disorderly Conduct. After plea negotiations with the State, Mr. Keegan was successful in dismissing the Carrying Weapons and Public Intoxication charges.

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    Iowa County FECR010358. Attorney Tindal was able to show the Court that his client was detained in violation of his Constitutional rights and that the K9 utilized in the search was unreliable. Following hearing all charges were dismissed.

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    Cedar Rapids, Linn County, Iowa. An employee of a Cedar Rapids business accused of embezzling six million dollars was not charged criminally after the County Attorney agreed to abide by an agreement negotiated by Attorneys J. Dean Keegan and Jerald Kinnamon in which the accused would pay two million dollars to the company.

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    Johnson County FECR089277. The Defendant was charged with Second Degree Sexual Abuse and other charges. Following a one-week trial by Mr. Tindal, the Defendant was acquitted of all charges.

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    Washington Count FECR5351. Attorney Tindal and Attorney Clemens Erdahl successfully argued that evidence of drug manufacture was obtained in violation of the Constitution. All charges were dismissed.

  • Operating While Intoxicated 3rd Offense Charge Dismissed

    Linn County OWCR104143. Attorney Dean Keegan's client was charged with a felony 3rd offense OWI. Mr. Keegan argued the officer did not have reasonable grounds to pull over his client. The charges were dropped from a felony to a ticket fine of $15.00 for being in a park past closing time.

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