Police officers are allowed to pull a vehicle over based on a “reasonable articulable suspicion” that you are committing a crime or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The police can even stop your vehicle and ask you questions without first having advised you of your constitutional rights, your right to remain silent, or the right to an attorney. This is called an investigative detention. As a driver, you have the right to refuse to answer any questions. However, the likelihood is that if you refuse to speak with the police, you will be arrested. One the other hand, if you answer the officers questions and incriminate yourself, the more likely you will be arrested.
During the vehicle stop, (the “investigative detention”), the officer is looking, observing, listening and using his sense of smell to determine if you have consumed any alcohol. The officer is also evaluating your dexterity, sense of balance and the sound of your speech, and if you are slurring your words as you speak. Other factors such as your ability to remain focused during the conversation and your ability to respond without repetition and confusion is also important. If the police officer asks if you consumed a drink containing alcohol, it is likely that the police officer will ask you to exit your vehicle and perform several “sobriety tests” to determine if you are indeed operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
At this point, the police will attempt to turn the investigative detention into “probable cause” to arrest you. Depending on which state you are being stopped in, the officer will ask you to perform several of the following field sobriety tests some examples include: an eye test called the One Leg Stand Test, the Walk and Turn Test, and Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test. The officer will first give you exact instructions on what to do for the test, and then possibly demonstrate how the test should be done. Then, he will ask you to perform the same tests. The offer does this in order to determine if alcohol has affected your ability to listen to instructions and then perform the tests according to those instructions.
Whether you are intoxicated or not, these tests are specifically designed for you to fail. If, for some circumstance you find yourself doing these tests on the side of the road, prepare yourself to be arrested.
There are two methods the police or prosecutor can use to convict you of DWI. First, the prosecutor can successfully convict you if your blood/breath alcohol concentration is .08 or greater. Additionally, the prosecutor can convict you if you have lost or compromised the normal use of your mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of those substances. Therefore, even without the Breath Test sample, you may still be convicted based upon the officers’ testimony or the testimony of other witnesses.
When the police stop you, they are not required to read you or inform you of your Miranda rights (the right to remain silent). While the officer is observing you and your conduct, he is looking for hints or clues of intoxication, smelling for alcohol or narcotics, and listening to the way you answer his questions. If he feels you may be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he will order you out of your vehicle and ask you to perform certain test. While the law requires you to take a breathalyzer test, you are not required to perform the other roadside performance tests.
Not all field sobriety tests are reliable nor have any real scientific validity. Many factors can influence the outcome. Age, weight, mental and physical challenges, uneven pavement, dangerous conditions, tiredness, confusion, ability to understand English, and the like can make the tests unreliable. Additionally, the testing should be done on a well-lighted, dry, flat, hard, non-slippery surface with sufficient room to perform the tests. Often, the side of the road are sloped for water run-off or may be uneven for many reasons or may have broken pavement. This would affect the outcome of the tests.
Never hire a general practitioner to defend you. You are in serious trouble. A DWI or DUI conviction can stop you getting a job, promotion, credit, or even housing. You need an experienced, qualified, and knowledgeable DWI Lawyer.
Please contact the Law Offices of Douglas C. Anton, Esq. for a case evaluation and to schedule an appointment.
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