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The Significance of 'Odor of Alcohol on Breath' in DUI Arrests

Police officer holding up breath test for DUI investigation.

Police officers are trained to detect the smell of alcohol on a driver's breath during a traffic stop. The odor of alcohol on breath can be key evidence in a DUI arrest. But how is this evidence useful in DUI cases?

The DUI defense attorneys at Manley & Manley discuss the relevance of alcohol on breath in DUI cases. Find out what to expect if you're stopped for drunk driving and how to protect your rights.

What happens if an officer smells alcohol on my breath?

The presence of alcohol on a person's breath can be used as one of the factors to establish probable cause. This is the belief that a crime has been committed or is being committed. It's a legal standard a police officer must meet before taking further investigative actions. While the odor of alcohol on a person's breath can be a relevant factor in establishing probable cause for a DUI investigation, officers typically look for additional evidence.

A law enforcement officer may conduct further testing or investigations related to potential alcohol impairment. This may include a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer test. They may also consider erratic driving behavior, slurred speech, and bloodshot eyes. However, the smell of alcohol alone may not be sufficient to establish probable cause for an arrest or a DUI charge.

What gives a police officer grounds to make a DUI arrest?

A police officer can make a DUI arrest if they have reason to believe you're operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol. The following are common factors that may give an officer grounds to make a DUI arrest:

  • Observable signs of impairment: This can be difficulty with balance or coordination, bloodshot eyes, or slurred speech.
  • Performance on a field sobriety test: This includes the walk-and-turn or one-leg stand test.
  • Admission of alcohol use: Even if you had one drink, admitting alcohol use to a police officer can be used as evidence of impairment.
  • Breathalyzer BAC test results: An officer may request a breathalyzer or blood test to measure your BAC. A BAC above the legal limit of 0.08 percent is strong evidence of impairment.
  • Open containers: Open alcohol containers in your vehicle can be incriminating and contribute to probable cause for a DUI arrest.

What should I do if I'm stopped for drunk driving?

If you are stopped for drunk driving in Michigan, it's essential to protect your rights while also complying with law enforcement requests. Here are some ways to safeguard your rights:

  • Stay calm and cooperative: When pulled over by law enforcement, remain calm and polite. Avoid arguing or becoming confrontational, as this can escalate the situation.
  • Provide basic information: You are required to provide your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance when requested by an officer. Failure to do so may result in additional charges.
  • Remain silent: You have the right to remain silent. You are not obligated to answer questions about your activities or whether you have been drinking. Politely inform the officer that you wish to exercise your right to remain silent.
  • Refusal of field sobriety tests: In Michigan, you have the right to decline field sobriety tests. These tests are voluntary, and you cannot be penalized for refusing them.
  • Preliminary breath test (PBT): You may be asked to take a PBT before an arrest. You have the right to refuse the PBT, but refusal may result in a civil infraction and a fine.
  • Implied consent law: Michigan has an implied consent law. This means that if you are arrested for DUI, you are required to take a chemical test (breath, blood, or urine) to determine your BAC. Refusing the chemical test can result in penalties, including driver's license suspension.
  • Document the police encounter: If possible, take notes of the circumstances surrounding the stop. Include the officer's behavior and any other relevant details. This information can be valuable in your defense.

Do I need a lawyer after a DUI arrest?

If you're facing a DUI charge in Michigan, get strong legal representation on your side. The attorneys at Manley & Manley can help build a strong legal defense for your DUI charge. We'll protect your rights throughout the entire process. That includes ensuring that the police officer followed the proper procedure and that the evidence against you was obtained legally.

We'll also investigate your DUI and look for any weaknesses or errors that can be used in your defense. To discuss the details of your arrest, contact us for a free and confidential consultation. There are no obligations, just honest answers you can trust.

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