Connecticut Police and What They Are Trained to Look For in DUI Stops

The first thing to understand in a DUI case is the reason why the Connecticut police stop you. Through the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the National Highway Transportation Safety Authority (NHTSA), a division of the US Department of Transportation, a series of “driving clues” exists. These indicate that a person may be operating under the influence. When a trained police officer sees one of these driving clues, it gives the officer a reasonable suspicion. They can then continue with an investigation. The clues break down into five distinct categories. The categories include maintaining lane position, vigilance, braking, speed, and judgment.

Maintaining Lane Position

Impaired drivers find it hard to maintain lane position. A driver under the influence has an erratic driving pattern and several events can identify them to the police. Drifting, weaving, swerving and wide turns can identify an impaired driver quickly. Drifting can be defined as moving in a forward direction, but with a slight angle. Many times the driver will drift towards the centerline or the median slowly. Then they correct the problem and begin to drift in the opposite direction.

Weaving is when a car moves side to side from one lane to another usually moving around other vehicles. When a person under the influence operates a vehicle, they might weave. This can happen even without the presence of other vehicles. Another sign of an intoxicated driver is one who comes extremely close to other objects, vehicles or even people. Drivers under the influence also tend to make wide turns. The driver may travel into the other lane when initiating the turn or while making it.


A driver’s vigilance is their ability to be aware of their surroundings, to be alert and take notice of their environment so that they may react appropriately. Driving into oncoming traffic and inconsistent signaling are two vigilance problems that can indicate driver intoxication. Driving into oncoming traffic occurs because the driver is not aware of their surroundings. They are not alert and watching traffic signs.

Improper signaling is also a sign that a driver may be intoxicated. A disoriented driver may signal and then turn in the opposite direction. This action is easily visible to officers of the law as well as other drivers. According to former New Jersey State Trooper and DUI expert Gary Aramini, driving at night without headlights is one vigilance problem that is a very common action of drunk drivers. Their vision is usually impaired and they do not even notice that they do not have their headlights on.


Oftentimes, the police can spot an intoxicated driver by the way that they stop their vehicle. Abrupt stops are a key sign as well as stopping too far from or beyond the line on the road. Stopping too far from objects or hitting objects such as parking blocks or parking in spots at improper angles indicate intoxication.


Slow speed can be enough reasonable suspicion to pull over a driver. Speeding is not a typical sign of drunk driving because driving at faster speeds requires faster reflexes which an intoxicated driver does not possess. Vehicles moving at slow or extremely slow speeds along with varying speeds such as slowing down and then speeding up can indicate drunk driving. Oftentimes, however, the initial contact with a driver is the result of an officer citing speeding as a reason for the initial stop of the arrested person.


Many times the judgment of a driver becomes impaired when driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Illegal turns such as turning when a “no turn on red” is marked or turning and driving on one-way streets or medians are judgment problems that often occur when a driver is under the influence. Driving on anything other than designated roadways such as center medians, shoulders, or even grass on the sides or center of the road can also indicate intoxication.

Keeping the roads safe is a primary task of police officers, especially the officers on duty in the late evening and early morning hours, the high time for DUI arrests. If they determine that there is a possibility that a driver of a motor vehicle is impaired, they will not hesitate to pull the driver over and investigate further. If you are detained, always remember to be polite, as it may be that you are being audio or videotaped.


My name is Teresa, and I am a DUI lawyer, but that is only part of who I am. I have been practicing law in Connecticut since 2006.


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