The Associated Press is reporting a story in New Hampshire of a woman who was arrested for suspicion of DWI after she crashed her vehicle into a moose in Jefferson. 48-year-old Maureen Couture was driving around 7 PM on Wednesday when her vehicle struck a moose in the street. She was taken to the hospital with what was described as “significant injuries”. She also had a passenger who was treated at the hospital but later released. Police also were given reason to believe that she was driving under the influence and she was arrested for suspicion of DWI.
As of now, not a lot of information is available regarding this case. No reports state how police determined that Couture should be arrested or what her blood alcohol concentration was. This case is a good example of the often overlooked situation that can result in a DWI arrest. There are three ways that most DWI arrests begin. The first is the traffic stop, the second is at a sobriety checkpoint and the third is after a serious accident.
When police patrol for traffic violators or DWI, they look for drivers demonstrating signs of impairment. This includes weaving, driving below the speed limit, making frequent and unexplained stops and demonstrating other unexplained driving patterns. A law enforcement agent needs reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle. A driver who shows any of these impairment cues provides a reasonable suspicion. Sobriety checkpoints are another common way for DWI arrests to be initiated. In some states sobriety checkpoints have been declared unconstitutional because they allow police to stop drivers without reasonable suspicion. In New Hampshire, sobriety checkpoints are legal under certain conditions.
In a case such as this one where a serious accident occurred, police will check all drivers involved for signs of impairment. Causing an accident where someone is hurt is considered reasonable suspicion and police can request drivers give a chemical blood, breath or urine sample to determine if they were DWI. A serious accident includes all car crashes where a person is severely injured or killed. In a case such as this, the only person seriously injured was the driver but police still felt that this was reasonable suspicion to evaluate Couture for impairment.
This is not the first time a DWI arrest has result from a moose related traffic accident. Police look for any sign that a driver is not operating normally. One of these signs is if the driver strikes another vehicle or object, including a large creature like a moose.
It will be interesting to see what the facts of her DWI charge are. Driving at night and striking an animal in the road is something that drivers of any impairment level fall victim to every day. The fact that this driver hit a moose is an unfortunate event, but it does not immediately lead the average person to assume the driver was drunk. Her best course of action, when she recovers, will be to speak to an experienced DWI attorney.