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An Inside Look into DUIs: 10 Tells That Can Determine Your Freedom

Driving under the influence, or DUI, not only puts lives at risk, it can cost the accused thousands of dollars or even jail time. If you host a party or are a bartender at a commercial establishment, you can be held liable in many states for letting someone drive drunk. Even if you aren’t liable, no one wants the guilt of knowing someone went to jail or, worse, injured or killed someone due to their intoxication.

Furthermore, fighting a DUI charge is difficult. Yes, the police do make mistakes and errors in procedure can sometimes lead to false charges. However, the best way to avoid a DUI is to prevent the possibility of one happening in the first place. There are several “tells” you can look out for that will reveal if you, or someone else, are too intoxicated to drive.

None of these tells are foolproof; many people can manage to mask one or more of these if they are only moderately drunk, and it’s easy to be above the legal limit for alcohol without displaying signs of drunkenness that an officer would look for at a traffic stop.

Knowing these tells can keep your friends and family safe. If you can notice them before they get behind the wheel, they can avoid the hassle of DUI charge, or the stigma of a DUI conviction.

Speeding or Driving Erratically

If you’re a passenger and the driver is varying their speed, driving erratically, weaving for no reason, or otherwise displaying signs of poor driving, chances are an alert police officer will notice those things, too. Convincing the driver to let you drive (if you’re sober and capable) can save the day.

Slurred Speech

Listen for slurring, stumbling over words, or a more pronounced accent than they might otherwise have. These are signs of drunken speech. Police officers are trained to recognize common signs of drunken speech.

Bloodshot or Watery Eyes

Most of us aren’t trained to do the flashlight tricks officers use to identify intoxicated drivers. However, if their eyes are bloodshot, watery, or glassy, these are signs that they might not be safe on the roads.

Jerky or Disjointed Movement

Intoxicated individuals often move in a very sudden, jerky fashion. Most humans in good health move smoothly. If someone is exhibiting sudden, incoherent, or jerky motions, that’s something a police officer will notice.

Fine Motor Skills Impairment

Is the person fumbling with their keys? Maybe they are having trouble operating a lighter or fishing something from their purse? Those types of movements are difficult for anyone intoxicated.

General Confusion

Is the person slower on the uptake? Maybe you told a joke, and they were a few seconds later to laugh than everyone else or needed you to explain something they would ordinarily understand. Many police officers will deliberately try and confuse someone they pull over to identify a potentially impaired driver.

Awkward Balance

In addition to watching the person’s movement, watch how they balance as they move. They may not be at a level of drunk where they're falling down, but even moderately drunk people can exhibit difficulty in staying balanced, especially when going down stairs or walking on rough ground.

Behavioral Shifts

For someone you know reasonably well, it’s easy to see a shift in behavior when someone is drunk. Maybe your shy friend is bragging loudly about the time they won a contest or took a fantastic trip. It’s not always that obvious, but even minor shifts can often be a sign that alcohol lowered their inhibitions enough to be a bit different than their usual self.


If you can smell alcohol on their breath, they’re probably not going to pass a breathalyzer. This isn’t foolproof; some liquors, like unflavored vodka, leave a minimal odor on someone’s breath. There are many cases, though, in which this is one of the easiest ways to detect whether someone’s been drinking.

Listen to Them Tell You They’re Drunk!

Drunk people tend to be honest even when they shouldn’t be. If they tell you they’re drunk, listen! They may change their story once they want to leave and try to convince you that they’re still sober. However, until they have a reason to claim sobriety, they’ll usually tell you how drunk they are.

If you see these signs, keep that person from driving away! You could be saving their life and the lives of others, plus you can keep them from years of legal hassle if they get caught driving under the influence.

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