This is the first of a 3-part series that will take a look at the reality of being pulled over for suspicion of DUI, what rights you have in this situation and the details of each standard field sobriety tests (SFST).
In no way does RGP condone drinking and driving.
Part One: Reality and Rights
It is very important to understand that once you have been stopped under suspicion of DUI or DWI, the officer is attempting to gather as much evidence against you as possible. Questions like, “Where are you coming from?”, “How much have you had to drink?” , “What time was your first/last drink?” are intended to make you give incriminating answers.
In order to arrest someone for a basic DUI violation, a law enforcement officer must have probable cause to believe that all elements of the offense are present. That is, the officer must believe that:
The person in question
Was operating or in physical control of
A vehicle (automobile, truck, van, motorcycle or even bicycle)
While under the influence of alcohol, another drug or both.
Officers dealing with impaired suspects rely primarily on their own power of detection when determining whether or not an arrest should be made. If you are pulled over and detained under suspicion of DWI, the likelihood of being arrested is high, regardless of your performance on the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. These tests are designed to be difficult; subjects are given complicated instructions (that will be covered in depth in this series of articles) only one time before being asked to perform the tests under extremely stressful circumstances. Any variation from the instructions will be used as evidence against you. It would be false hope to tell yourself, “if I just pass these, I can go home.” You are likely already going to jail. Our advice: if you are asked to step out of your car, be respectful to the officer and ask to speak to your attorney before performing any tests or answering any questions.
Information used in this article from the NHTSA DWI Detection and Stadardized Field Sobriety Testing Student Manual (2006). http://www.tdcaa.com/sites/default/files/page/SFST_Student_Manual_2006.pdf