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Evidence of Drug/Alcohol Use or Impairment

Goldilocks Theory of Drug/Alcohol Investigation

What indicators will police officers look for in assessing whether a driver or other person has used or is under the influence of drugs or alcohol?

The best information or evidence of drug or alcohol use or impairment, short of a confirmed laboratory analysis, often comes from the correct administration of NHTSA-approved standardized field sobriety tests (SFST's). Before conducting field sobriety tests or requesting a blood or urine sample to be tested, police can be required to establish reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity or probable cause to believe that a crime has occurred. In order to develop evidence to establish reasonable articulable suspicion or probable cause, many police officers will look for visual or audible signs or indicators of impairment or drug use.

Utah Drug Case Defense - Choose the BestMany of these supposed visual or audible "indicators" are problematic in that they require a subjective assessment of a person's behaviors or physical conditions. Many of these factors are not subject to a binary yes-no assessment, but can instead fall along a range of conditions or behaviors. The necessary subjective analysis sometimes results in a Goldilocks assessment, where behaviors and conditions on one end of a spectrum can be considered as indicators of drug or alcohol use or impairment, and behaviors and conditions on the opposite end of the spectrum can also be viewed as indicators of use or impairment. Only when the condition or behavior falls in the Goldilocks zone (not to hot or too cold, not too hard or too soft, etc.) will the condition or behavior be viewed by the officer as not indicating use or impairment.

Many of the symptoms, characteristics, or behaviors can in fact be caused by alcohol or drug use and can in fact indicate drug or alcohol impairment. But there often are potential causes other than drug or alcohol use that should be considered in assessing whether there is any actual impairment caused by drugs or alcohol. Some examples of potential "indicators" are listed below.

If you are facing criminal charges relating to alleged drug or alcohol use, consumption, or possession, it is vital that you have the assistance of an experienced attorney. Contact us today to see how we can help you.

Examples from the Goldilocks Zone

Speech - Rapid speech and slow speech can both be potential indicators of drug or alcohol use. Similarly, the contrasting characteristics of loud speech and soft speech can sometimes be used as an indicator of drug or alcohol impairment. When speaking, remember to be not too loud and not too soft, not to fast and not too slow. Keep the speed and volume of your speech in the just-right Goldilocks zone.

Behavior - Behavior that appears agitated or anxious as well as behavior that presents as depressed or sullen can both sometimes serve as a basis for supporting a claim of alcohol or drug impairment. An aggressive or belligerent attitude and also an overly-friendly attitude are both sometimes cited by police as indicators of drug or alcohol impairment. Overly-animated behavior or lethargic, drowsy behavior are all sometimes viewed as indicators of impairment. To reduce the risk of being accused of being impaired by alcohol or drug use, be sure to behave in a manner that is not too passive and not too aggressive, not too animated and not too lethargic, not too friendly and not too belligerent, and, of course, do not let yourself appear too agitated and anxious or too sullen and depressed. Keep your behavior and demeanor in that just-right Goldilocks zone.

Facial Features - Facial features and muscles that become too relaxed can indicate drug or alcohol impairment, as can facial features and muscles that are too tense. Perhaps the toughest indicator to exercise conscious control over is pupil size. Pupils that are constricted or pupils that are dilated can both potentially support a claim of alcohol or drug impairment. Avoid letting your face be too relaxed or too tense, and hope that your pupils find a way to keep themselves not too big and not too small.

Finding the Right Attorney

Defending DUI and Drug or Alcohol Charges in UtahIf you can look just right, talk just right, and behave just right, you just might avoid being charged with an offense related to alcohol or drug use or impairment. But if you do find yourself facing criminal charges, contact us today to see how our criminal defense team can help you. See the difference the right attorney can make.

We are pleased to assist clients along the Wasatch Front and throughout Utah in drug- and alcohol-related cases, including felony and misdemeanor DUI, automobile homicide (DUI-related), DUI (alcohol), DUI (metabolite or drug), drug possession and other drug charges, alcohol possession/consumption by a minor, open container, and many more. Our experienced team of Utah criminal defense lawyers has extensive experience defending individuals who are facing aggressive prosecution at the misdemeanor and felony level, and in the district courts and justice courts throughout the state.


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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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