We all know that it’s not safe to drink and drive. But if we’re being honest, we’ve all witnessed the contrary, as our experienced team at The Cassell Firm can confirm. Whether we are heading home from a party or the club, it’s easy to spot someone who is or plans to drive under the influence. But while we don’t have the power to stop all of them and have them take a cab, we have all wondered how the police manage to identify them.

If you’re curious to learn more about what police in Tennessee look for in drunk drivers, you’re in the right place. Here’s how police use traffic violations, physical symptoms, and sobriety tests to identify and apprehend drunk drivers. 

Traffic Violations

Traffic rules were put in place to ensure that we stay safe on the roads and to guarantee that no harm comes to innocent folk. But when someone is driving under the influence, they’re not necessarily the best judges of ‘right and wrong.’


Going from 0-100 in 10 seconds is every Fast and Furious fan’s dream, but in real life, this is risky. Police check for DUI traffic violations such as accelerating and decelerating for no reason, having difficulties stopping, or even driving too slowly.

Proper lane position

Lane position violations are a huge clue of a DUI person. Violators are usually weaving on the highway, crossing lanes, straddling, drifting, and missing other vehicles by inches.

Use of headlights

Substances impair our abilities to make proper judgments, and when we’re drunk, we might forget a few things. Driving without headlights is a mistake that will get you stopped for a police check ASAP.

Problems with vigilance

DUI cases usually get stopped when the driver is observed to be making some erratic decisions. Examples include driving in oncoming lanes, stopping for no reason, and driving off the road.

Physical Symptoms and Communication

After a driver is pulled over, it’s routine for the officer to look for various physical and communication symptoms. For the officer, symptoms are usually a great clue as to the state of a driver’s inebriation and fitness to drive.

Some of the most common physical symptoms that are tell-tale signs that someone is DUI include having bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, dilated pupils, or excessive sweating. Other signs include drug remnants on the skin and opened alcohol cans. At other times, the alcohol odor is enough to give away someone who’s been drinking.

Besides physical signs, the officer also engages in conversation with the driver. In these instances, the driver’s communication can be used as probable cause to arrest them. A question often asked is whether you’ve been using drugs or drinking, with answers considered evidence.

Field Sobriety Test

The field sobriety test is one of the standard procedures administered to ascertain the driver’s physical and mental state. These tests can be given in a certain order, as listed below:

  1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: measures eye movement.
  2. Walk The Line Test: assesses balance, with the driver required to walk 9 steps in each direction. To make things interesting, drivers must walk on a marked line.
  3. One Leg Stand: requires the driver to raise one foot for at least 30 seconds, which is hard when under influence.
  4. Rhomberg Test: the driver is asked to tilt their head backwards and count to 30. Drunk drivers fall over backwards or fail to count.

These tests are impossible to trick when under the influence of a substance, and often, drivers require the help of an experienced attorney for their defense.

DUI Penalties in Tennessee

After being arrested and charged with a DUI offense, drivers might face different categories of penalties. In Tennessee, the penalties for first-time offender DUI include jail time, probationary fines, 24 hours of trash pickup, a one-year loss of your driver’s license, or a rehabilitation program.

For second-time offenders, penalties can be something like a $600 to $3,500 mandatory fine, vehicle seizure, 29 days in jail, or even the installation of an ignition interlock device. The severity of fines increases with the third and fourth-time offenses, with the most serious penalties delivered depending on the risks posed to others. Public safety guidelines extend penalties to cover child endangerment, vehicular homicide, and aggravated vehicular assaults, among other offenses, while driving under the influence.

Contact A DUI Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one were arrested on suspicion of being drunk, this doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily guilty. Finding a legal representative to help you navigate the complex regulations and penalties for a DUI charge can ensure that you avoid a costly conviction and even get reduced time. Defense attorneys from The Cassell Firm can help you make sense of your charges and get you results that are best for you and your family.