You hear the siren, and you see the lights. You pull over to the side of the road, getting ready to provide your license and registration—and you wonder why the officer stopped you in the first place. Maybe you didn’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign, were speeding, or were drifting a bit in your lane. Maybe one of your vehicle’s taillights is out. Whatever the reason, you’re about to face a police officer who is going to ask you some questions.
If the officer suspects that you might be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, there is a specific DUI questioning technique they might use. In Maryland, Washington, D.C., and across the country, law enforcement personnel may ask questions in a certain way to try to see if your abilities are impaired.
The Primary Objective of DUI Questioning
DUI questioning techniques may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but the primary objective will be to apply the concept of divided attention. This is the same idea that provides the foundation for field sobriety tests like the walk-and-turn or the one-leg stand, where the subject has to focus on more than one thing at a time. Alcohol and drugs can negatively influence one’s ability to multitask, and poor performance on field sobriety tests or an inability to field an officer’s questions may be used as evidence against a driver who is charged with DUI.
There are three primary questioning techniques recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to divide a driver’s attention after a DUI stop: asking for more than one thing at once, asking questions that distract or interrupt, and asking unusual questions.
Step One: Asking for More than One Thing at Once
Officers may ask for two things simultaneously after a DUI stop, such as the driver’s license and registration. Only providing one item, providing the wrong documents, fumbling, and having trouble searching for these items may all be considered signs of intoxication or impairment.
Step Two: Asking Questions that Distract or Interrupt
Another technique is to distract or interrupt the driver. For example, while a driver is getting out their license and registration, an officer may ask another question such as, “Where were you going?” or “What’s the date?” Questions like these are meant to divide the driver’s attention. Officers will look for behavior like stopping to answer the question and then forgetting to produce the license and registration, giving a completely incorrect answer to the question, or ignoring the question completely.
Step Three: Asking Unusual Questions
After the driver has supplied their license and vehicle registration, the third stage of the DUI questioning technique is to ask unusual questions. An officer might ask, “What’s your middle name?” or “What’s your ZIP code?” The point is to force the driver to process information they’re not expecting to have to provide. Delays, incorrect responses, and ignoring the question are acts that officers will look for as signs of impaired mental abilities after a DUI stop.
Challenging DUI Questioning Techniques
Everything that an officer observes before, during, and after a DUI stop may be used as evidence to support an arrest or charge in Washington, D.C. or Maryland. The officer may get on the stand and testify about what they observed, and this can be distressing for a person who is facing DUI charges. What you should know, however, is that this testimony can be challenged. A strong cross-examination and evidence of an unlawful stop could discredit an officer’s testimony—if the case even reaches the courtroom. In the right circumstances, a competent Maryland DUI attorney can sometimes work to prevent formal charges from being filed in the first place.
DUI Arrest in Washington, D.C. or Maryland? We Can Help!
At Gracia & Mintz our Prince George’s County DUI lawyers are former prosecutors, and one is also a former police officer, giving us a unique edge in every case we touch. We know how the other side thinks and works, and we know the strategies and techniques they use to secure DUI convictions. DUI questioning techniques can provide what seems to be strong evidence of impairment, but our legal team knows how to challenge such evidence in our pursuit for the best possible result for every client we represent.
To learn more, call (301) 842-8584. We serve clients across Maryland and Washington, D.C.