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Do Police Officers Know When Someone Has Been Drinking?

Do police officers have the ability to smell an odor of alcohol on someone and use that as evidence for criminal charges? How reliable is this sense and what other methods are used by law enforcement? This article will answer those questions and more regarding the detection of an odor of alcohol.

How Can Police Officers Tell If Someone Has Been Drinking?

Police officers can detect alcohol consumption in several ways ranging from their own sense of smell to high-tech breathalyzers. The most common ability that law enforcement officers have is the ability to smell an odor of alcohol on someone. This symptom alone, however, won't be enough for an arrest as it must be backed up with additional evidence such as erratic behavior or a failed field sobriety test. In addition, body cameras can be used for additional evidence and this will help police officers determine if there is strong enough proof for an arrest.

Physical Symptoms of Alcohol Consumption

Physical symptoms such as impaired coordination, redness of the eyes, and slurred speech are telltale signs that a person has been drinking. An officer will be able to detect these symptoms from afar, even if the subject is speaking through a window or is otherwise out of range. Other indicators include stumbling and clumsiness when attempting normal tasks like walking or participating in field sobriety tests. It's important for drivers to remember that any physical sign of intoxication can be used as evidence during a DUI or DWI arrest.

The Odor of Alcohol on Breath, Skin and Clothing

Alcohol has an unmistakable odor that is immediately recognizable to experienced police officers, even from a great distance. The odor can be detected on the breath of someone who has been drinking, on their skin if they have came into contact with alcohol, and on their clothing. Therefore, it's important for those who have been drinking to remember that coverage of one's mouth or nose may not be enough to conceal the smell of alcohol.

Behavioral Cues of Impaired Driving

Police officers are often trained to spot the signs and symptoms of someone who has been drinking, aside from the odor. Behavioral cues like slow reactions and poor coordination, slurred speech and difficulty making conversation, confusion or aggressive conduct, or generally unusual behavior are red flags for police officers that indicate possible alcohol impairment in a driver.

Errors in Assessing Impairment: Is It Fair?

Although police officers may have general training in recognizing alcohol impairment, it is possible their assessments can still lack accuracy. In some cases, an individual could be judged more impaired than they are due to a false read by police officers, which calls into question the fairness of assessing someone's mental state. Factors such as lighting conditions or stress levels can also impact how reliably someone is judged as impaired after drinking alcohol.

What Happens After An Arrest?