From the beginning of 2009 until August 31, 2010, about 11,500 drivers in Travis County were arrested for DWI. In Texas, about 124,000 three-time offenders and 18,000 five-time offenders are arrested and convicted every year, and Texas’s DWI arrests account for about 5 percent of national DWI arrests. Each of these arrests means a trip to jail, fees and the possibility of more serious legal consequences.

Before officers make a DWI arrest, they look for very specific cues that a driver is intoxicated. These cues are usually noticed while the driver is operating the vehicle, when the officer approaches the driver and during field sobriety tests. The following is a list of indicators that police officers use when they suspect a driver may be drunk.

While the Vehicle is in Motion

  • Not staying in one lane
  • Headlights aren’t turned on
  • Making illegal turns
  • Coming very close to another car or object
  • Swerving
  • Driving very slowly
  • Not responding to traffic signals, or responding slowly
  • Driving in the wrong lane
  • A wide turn radius

When the Officer Approaches the Driver

  • Slurred speech
  • Bloodshot or red eyes
  • Vehicle or breath smells like alcohol
  • Inability to answer officer’s questions
  • Difficulty finding or retrieving license and registration
  • Difficulty exiting the vehicle
  • Repeating something multiple times during the conversation
  • Argumentative, excessively angry or making jokes
  • Stumbling; using the vehicle for support while standing
  • Alcohol bottles or cans

During Field Sobriety Tests

  • During the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, the officer will ask the driver to follow an object, such as a pen or light, with his or her eyes. The officer is looking for eye-jerking and difficulty watching the object.
  • During the Walk-and-Turn test, the officer will ask the driver to walk heel-to-toe along a straight line, then turn and walk in the opposite direction. The officer is looking for inability to follow directions and trouble balancing.
  • During the One-Leg-Stand test, the officer will ask the driver to stand with one leg raised 6 inches off the ground and count. The officer is looking for trouble balancing, hopping, difficulty counting and not comprehending the instructions.