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DUI Arrests - the Law

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What Constitutes a DUI Arrest?

A DUI arrest usually occurs after the officer has stopped the driver for a traffic violation and after the stop the officer has probable cause to believe that the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or is otherwise too impaired to drive a motor vehicle safely. After the stop has been made and the officer has conducted a field sobriety test, the first stage of the criminal process in a DUI case begins once the officer has placed the driver under arrest.

When Can an Officer Make a DUI Arrest?

A police officer that has stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation may place the driver under arrest for a DUI in the following circumstances:

  • Police Officer Has Probable Cause: If the police officer personally sees or believes that the driver has committed a crime, the officer may lawfully arrest that person. For example, if the police officer believes that driver is driving under the influence because the driver smells like alcohol or officer notices empty beer bottles in his vehicle, the officer may arrest the driver based on probable cause that the driver has been driving under the influence.
  • Police Officer Made a Lawful Traffic Stop: The officer had probable cause to believe that the driver is under the influence. Officer must show that he or she did not stop the vehicle randomly or for no reason. There must be proof that the driver did something in violation of a law, which led to the traffic stop.
  • Police Officer Has an Arrest Warrant: The officer can place the driver under the arrest after the traffic stop if the officer had a valid arrest warrant issued by a judge or magistrate.

What Happens After the Officer Makes a DUI Arrest?

There are four phases that occur after the officer has placed the driver under arrest:

  • Chemical Tests:  After the officer has placed the driver under arrest for a DUI, the officer takes the driver either to the hospital, police station, or jail for a mandatory chemical blood or breath test to measure the blood alcohol level of the driver. There are two types of chemical tests that the driver may be subjected to: a blood test or a breath test. Breath test results are available immediately while blood tests have to be sent to a laboratory for an analysis. 
  • License Suspension: The officer will then notify the driver that his or her license will be suspended in 30 days and will confiscate the license and issue the driver a temporary license that is valid until the suspension goes into effect.
  • Booking and Release: After all the DUI tests have been completed or refused, the officer will then book the driver into county jail. Depending on the driver’s criminal history and current DUI case, the driver may get released on bail or may be released immediately after providing a written promise that he will appear in court on the assigned date. Normally, the driver is held in custody for several hours before they are released.
  • Prosecution: The arresting officer then completes the police report investigation and submits the report to the prosecution agency. After the prosecution reviews the case, the prosecution will then either charge the driver for a DUI or decline to charge the driver for a DUI because there are not enough factors that could form a formal charge.

Should I Contact a Lawyer Regarding a DUI Arrest?

As there are may aspects to DUI arrests that may be contended in court, it is a very wise idea to contact a DUI lawyer. Anything from improper arrest procedure to mistreatment of the suspect may be contested in court, and a criminal defense lawyer may be able to help get you off on one of these procedural aspects.  

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Photo of page author Kourosh Akhbari

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 05-24-2018 11:37 PM PDT

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