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Driving “Cues” in DWI Investigations

Criminal defense lawyers in Houston and everywhere understand that DWI investigations usually begin before a person is pulled over. Officers who have been certified to administer Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (“SFSTs”), are trained to look for driving behaviors thought to be consistent with alcohol intoxication. In its training materials, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) claims that “common effects of alcohol on the driver’s mental and physical faculties lead to predictable driving violations and vehicle operating characteristics.”

In DWI cases in Houston and anywhere officers are trained to follow the NHTSA manual, criminal defense lawyers know that officers look for driving “cues” of intoxication which can include weaving, drifting, acceleration or deceleration problems, driving the wrong way or slow responses (the NHTSA manual contains many more behaviors it claims are consistent with alcohol intoxication). It is interesting to note that speeding – which is perhaps the most common driving violation – is not considered a cue.

These alleged cues of intoxication are usually relied on by law enforcement and prosecutors to prove someone guilty of DWI or DUI. However, as with other aspects of DWI or DUI investigation, criminal defense attorneys know that relying on these cues is often misleading because certain people are uncoordinated and may exhibit some of these driving cues even when sober. Additionally, there is a danger that officers will expect that anyone exhibiting these driving cues will be guilty of DWI or DUI, and will conduct the remainder of that investigation under that assumption.