How People Get Arrested for DWI

Arrested for DWI?

IMG_0408-150x150When most people think of DWI arrests, they think of a person who is weaving all over the road, driving recklessly, and causing accidents. While it is true that some DWI arrests occur in these situations, many people who are arrested for DWI are quite different from this stereotype. In fact, some DUI arrests start with an unrelated stop. Commonly, the initial traffic stop is for speeding, having an expired tag, or some other mundane reason.

Initially, the officer may not suspect “drunk” or “impaired” driving. However, after the officer detects the smell of alcohol, the entire situation changes. At this point, there is very little a person can do to avoid arrest and a trip to jail. When asked to step out of your vehicle and to perform roadside “field sobriety tests,” you can try them, but you will almost always fail. An officer will place you under arrest if you do not perform the tests to their liking.  And, of course, if you refuse anything…well, you get the idea here.  You will end up in the same place.

The mere scent of alcohol on the breath will instantly turn the traffic stop into a DWI investigation that can result in the driver being arrested for DWI. Our law firm has seen this happen too many times. We have even had clients who were arrested while on their way to work and stuck in traffic early the next morning after a “night out.” One client’s vehicle was “tapped” in the rear by another driver who was not paying attention. Our client called the police in order to get a police report of the minor accident for insurance purposes. Guilty people don’t usually call 911. Nevertheless, once the officer arrived and smelled alcohol, our client was field tested and then arrested for DWI.

This is more common than you think.  We go out, get home, and sleep hard so that we can go to work the next day. We may still have the smell of alcohol but are perfectly sober and safe to drive. That does not matter. At least until we get to court. What starts out as a routine traffic stop for the driver can quickly turn into a nightmare. It all seems like a bad dream, but it is very real.

DWI Checkpoints

Another common scenario is a DWI checkpoint. The person drives up to the checkpoint, without exhibiting any unsafe or bad driving. They give the the officer their license and registration.  The officer may ask a question about consuming alcohol. If the officer smells alcohol, then regardless of the answer, the officer will start thinking that this may be a possible DWI case. Next, the officer directs them to step out of the vehicle. Like the person in the scenario above, they comply with the officer’s instructions, and felt like they did every test correctly. Yet they find themselves arrested for DWI, and blowing into an Intoxilyzer. Next, they are facing a magistrate. They are often released quickly, and struggle to understand what just happened to them. The next morning, the whole evening seems unreal, and they are trying to figure out what to do next.


A third common scenario is an accident case. A person has had a drink or two, and all of a sudden a vehicle swerves into their lane, side swiping them. Both cars pull over to the side of the road, and the person calls the police to get a traffic accident report. When the police arrive, they began talking to both drivers. The officer smells alcohol from the breath of the victim of the accident. Even though that person was not at fault for the accident, the police will still start a DWI investigation.

The police will usually proceed with Field Sobriety Tests, despite the fact that an accident may effect a person’s performance on the tests. These tests can be difficult to perform under the best of conditions. It is no wonder that they are unable to complete the tests satisfactorily. Nevertheless, they are arrested, charged with DWI, and prosecuted by the courts.

Vehicles Stopped by the Side of the Road

Finally, we have seen cases where individuals have pulled their vehicles to the side of the road, or into parking lots, attempting to make a safe decision and get off of the road. Initially, they were fine to drive. However, once on the road, they realize that they are not safe and want to do the right thing. They pull off the road as quickly as they can so that they can either call someone to come and get them, or even so that they can “sleep it off.”

Unfortunately, a person stopped on the side of the road or sleeping behind the wheel in a parking lot will attract the attention of police. Once the police come up to your car, they will smell alcohol and off we go again. Hopefully, you are starting to see just how easy it is to find yourself in real trouble even when you try to do what you think is best.


As we have briefly outlined here, there are a variety of ways that people can find themselves under arrest for DWI. There are many other examples, and not all of them begin with reckless driving or an accident caused by a drunk driver. Many begin innocently enough, with a stop occurring because of an unrelated traffic or vehicle violation. Others start with a license or DWI checkpoint. There are, of course, DUI arrests that result following an accident. No one wants dangerous drivers on the roads, no matter what the reason. We all support law enforcement as they protect us from “drunk” drivers. But, as we have described above, you don’t have to be truly “drunk” to be prosecuted for being “impaired.”

Try not to worry. This is what our lawyers do. We defend those persons charged with driving while impaired. Many people question how we can do such a thing. How can you represent “drunk drivers” is the usual question. The overwhelming majority of our clients have never been in any trouble with the law. Some don’t even have a prior speeding ticket.

They have gone out to dinner with friends and had a drink or glass of wine with their meal. Others have been to a game and had a beer while they watched their favorite team. They are good, hard working individuals who could easily take a cab home or have someone come pick them up. They would never drive a vehicle if they thought for an instant that they were unsafe. But, once they see the blue light in their mirror, they know their life is about to change. They are about to face the first serious criminal matter of their life and are understandably afraid of what is going to happen next.

That’s where we come into the picture. Our Charlotte DUI lawyers focus on aggressively and effectively representing DWI clients here in Mecklenburg County.  We would be glad to meet with you and discuss your case.