I’ve talked previously about how police officers need to have a reasonable articulable suspicion that a crime is afoot in order to stop a car traveling down North Carolina’s roads – in Raleigh, Cary, Apex, for instance, or in any other part of Wake County.
Assume for a moment that the police officer has a valid reason or a reasonable articulable suspicion to stop the car. Does that mean that a driver accused of a DWI is sunk? No.
Just because an officer has enough legal grounds to stop a car does not necessarily mean that the officer has legal grounds to arrest the driver on a Driving While Impaired charge (DWI).
The prosecutor must prove that in the second phase of the police officer’s investigation he developed enough evidence to form a probable cause that the driver had been driving while impaired.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration teaches two major evidence gathering tasks at this point as part of the officer’s Phase II interaction with the driver. The first task is for the police officer to approach, observe, and interview the driver while still in the car to identify any impairment or intoxication face-to-face.
The officer will identify whether the person has bloodshot eyes, soiled clothing, fumbling fingers, alcohol containers, drugs or drug paraphernalia, bruises, bumps or scratches or whether the person is slurring his or her speech, admission to drinking, abusive language, etc.
The officer will also identify any smells – alcoholic beverages, marijuana, cover up of odors, breath-sprays, or unusual odors.
Next time I’ll talk about additional observations the police officer should record before validly arresting the driver.