Phase One of DUI Detection from the 2006 NHTSA DUI Detection Manual. Federal authorities train law enforcement academy and other instructors to train patrol officers on how to conduct DUI (OWI) detection and arrest. Phase one of this process is determining whether to stop the car. In reality, the process is reversed. Officers believe someone is impaired, perhaps because of the late hour of the evening or early morning hours after bar close and suspect that someone driving at this time is likely returning from the bars. They use pretextual stops to make initial physical face-to-face contact with a motorist to observe the other purportedly tell-tale signs of alcohol consumption.
Ten and Two an old adage about driving defensively is that you will better control your vehicle if you drive with your hands at "ten and two" on the steering wheel. Contrary to this conventional wisdom, NHTSA instructs law enforcement academy and other instructors to look specifically for motorists who drive rigidly, clutching the steering wheel at "ten and two" and seated close to the windshield as purported signs of impairment.
Police in Iowa stop motorists for a variety of reasons including “pretext.” A pretext is a simple, but fictitious, reason which an officer might otherwise overlook if he or she did not otherwise suspect a driver was impaired. A pretextual reason could include a license plate light, registration sticker, or other minor traffic violation like stopping partially over the white stop line at an intersection or momentarily crossing the white dotted lines in two lanes of traffic moving in the same direction—none of these infractions is typically worth an officer’s time. While law enforcement professes the duty to cite all law violations, there is no possible way they could stop every motorist who speeds five mph over, who doesn’t signal, or who momentarily and harmlessly crosses a white dotted line when no other traffic is present. When they do so, it is usually to make an OWI (DUI) arrest. They deny quotas for these arrests but, generally speaking, they are more important to law enforcement than, say, an expired registration sticker.
However, both the Iowa Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court have held that Officer Friendly is legally permitted to seize a motorist for any law violation—no matter how minor. Therefore, if an officer has a mere hunch that a motorist is impaired, but has probable cause to believe that the driver is speeding, operates without headlights, turns without signaling, or failed to renew registration, then the officer has permission from the courts to make the stop, considered a seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as Article I § 8 of the Iowa Constitution.
In so doing, they get the camel’s head in the tent, so to speak. What that means is that Phase One of DUI detection is to make the stop so that the officer can get to Phase Two—personal contact to observe the now-cliché “bloodshot watery eyes, strong odor of alcoholic beverage, and slurred speech”—all purported signs of consumption.
Next time, we’ll address Phase Two—the object of Phase One.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for OWI (DUI) in Iowa, contact DAC-LAW PLC, 305 2nd Avenue, Suite 200, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at 319-389-4276,
https://www.cedarrapidsduilawyer.lawyer for a free initial consultation. Remember, however, that a blog is not legal advice, and that sending unsolicited information to an attorney over the Internet does not establish an attorney client relationship.