Most people arrested for drunk driving in Michigan first encounter the police as part of a traffic stop. The traffic stop might be for something unrelated, such as speeding, or it might be because of something more commonly associated with intoxicated driving, such as weaving. Either way, the police investigation in a DUI/OWI case begins as soon as the officer begins to observe your car. Law enforcement thinks of this as the “vehicle in motion” phase of their investigation. During this phase the officer will be taking notes about your driving so that they can justify the stop, and will also take notes relative to how you respond to the stop signal. In other words, what did you do when the police activated their flashing lights? Did you pull over normally? Or were you slow to respond? Were any other traffic violations observed? Did you stop inappropriately, or try to flee, etc. All of this will be noted in the police officer’s narrative written report, and this report will be provided to your lawyer as part of the discovery process.
The next part of the police officer’s investigation is call the face-to-face contact phase of the investigation. At this juncture the police officer is trying to decide if he or she should ask you to step out of your car for further investigation. Common factors during this phase of the investigation include odor of alcohol and/or admission to drinking, flushed face, bloodshot glassy eyes, disheveled cloths, inability to find and/or provide driver license, registration, proof of insurance, handing the wrong documents over, answering distracting question inappropriately, and forgetting to put car in park are all things officers are trained to look for during this part of the investigation. If the officer does ask you to step out of the car, then he or she will observe you as you step out and walk toward the back of the car. Do you lose your balance getting out of car? Do you stagger or use your car for balance as you walk toward the rear of your car? As with the first phase of the investigation, the officer will note all these observations in the official police report.
The final phase of the investigation is called the pre-arrest screening. Here the officer is trying to determine if probable cause exists to arrest you for drunk driving. During this phase of the investigation you may be subjected to many different field tasks. These include both the standardized and the non-standardized field sobriety tests. Non-standardized tests include counting backward, stating the alphabet or a portion of the alphabet, finger count and pick a number, such as a number between 15 and 17. Standardized tests include only the one-leg stand, the walk and turn and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.