It can be very stressful if you are pulled over for suspected DUI or drugged driving. However, it is important to remember that you still have legal rights during a DUI stop, and much of what the officer will ask is completely voluntary on your part. During a DUI stop, keep these things in mind.
What Should I Do If Pulled Over for a DUI?
The police officer will probably ask if someone has been drinking or what they have been doing for the last few hours. While drivers are required to produce a driver’s license and registration, they do not have to volunteer any other information.
You should always be polite, but do not divulge any information that could make an arrest more likely or might later prove damaging.
The officer may also ask you to perform a series of field sobriety tests. Some common tests include:
- Balancing on one leg
- Walking in a straight line
- Reciting the alphabet backward
- Following a light with eyes from side-to-side
If the officer has probable cause to believe you have been driving under the influence, you will be arrested and transported to a police station or hospital for blood, breath, or urine test.
You should ask for a lawyer at this point. In some states, you can see a lawyer immediately; in others, you must wait until you have taken (or refused to take) a chemical test.
If you are charged with a crime, you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible so that your rights can be protected and your defense can be prepared.
What Are Field Sobriety Tests? What Are Some Examples of Field Sobriety Tests?
Drunk driving refers to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. More specifically, the term refers to driving while the blood alcohol content (or “BAC“) meets or exceeds the state-specified limit. Most states consider drivers with BACs between 0.08% and 0.10% legally drunk.
Testing a person’s sobriety is one way to determine whether they are legally drunk. To determine whether alcohol has impaired a driver’s ability to drive, a police officer will probably ask them to perform several of these field sobriety tests.
Field sobriety tests include:
- Alcohol/Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: The officer holds either a pen or flashlight approximately twelve inches from the driver’s face. The driver will be asked to watch the pen or flashlight as they move it from one side to the other. An officer is looking for an involuntary jerking of the eyeball when the pen is as far to the side as possible. According to this theory, the driver’s eyeball will involuntarily jerk more frequently as his BAC increases;
- Standing On One Foot While Counting: The driver is asked to stand on one foot with their hands at their side and the other foot extended. In addition, the officer may ask the driver to count to a specific number simultaneously;
- Walking an Imaginary Line: The driver is directed to walk a straight line while touching one foot’s heel to the other’s toe. Separate instructions may be given simultaneously, such as walking ten steps forward, turning, and then walking nine steps back. All of this must be done heel-to-toe;
- Finger To Nose: The driver touches their nose with their index finger while their eyes are closed, and their arms are extended;
- Alternate Clapping: The officer instructs the driver to clap the palms of their hands together, then the backs of their hands together, while simultaneously counting;
- Recite the Alphabet: The officer asks the driver to recite the alphabet. Depending on their needs, they may request the alphabet in its entirety or in part;
- Count Backwards: The officer will ask the driver to count backward from a specified number; and
- Fingers to Thumb: The driver is asked to touch a specified finger to their thumb.
How Reliable Are Field Sobriety Tests? Are Their Results Subject to Challenge?
Before discussing whether field sobriety tests are reliable, it is important to note that such tests are generally considered discriminatory against individuals with physical or mental disabilities.
An example would be a sober person with a condition affecting their involuntary muscle movement failing a field sobriety test. Other physical conditions that may affect a person’s ability to perform such tests include, but are not limited to:
- A lack of equilibrium;
- Walking difficulties;
- The inability to process directions quickly;
- A lack of ability to perform a particular task.
These tests are used as a simple tool to determine whether there is cause to arrest a driver. Therefore, field sobriety tests are extremely subjective.
It is important to emphasize that this testing is not required, and it will rarely help a driver’s case. An officer’s ability to make an accurate determination will be adversely affected if the driver suffers from one of the aforementioned physical or mental conditions. Before taking any field sobriety tests, the driver should inform the officer of any mental or physical issues they may have.
If the defendant is arrested for drunk driving, they should challenge the validity of the tests.
Police are legally required to videotape their stops. Therefore, it is likely that the field sobriety test will be recorded, further supporting the validity challenge.
Several field sobriety tests are considered extremely inaccurate. Alcohol/Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus tests are considered so unreliable that their results are generally excluded from evidence during court trials.
Once you have been arrested and the officer has stated that you have failed the field sobriety test, you have the right to challenge the validity of the test in court. A field sobriety test is a subjective exercise designed to test a driver’s attention and motor skills. It is common for nervous or stressed drivers to fail the administered test.
Field sobriety tests are not legally required. The majority of field sobriety tests are voluntary. After the officer has pulled over the driver and has asked them to submit to a field sobriety test, the driver is allowed the right to refuse the test. However, the police may arrest the driver for refusing to submit to field testing. In addition, officers do not usually inform drivers of their right to refuse a field sobriety test.
A police officer may arrest a driver if the officer believes the driver is under the influence and therefore unable to drive safely. Many states require the driver to submit to a chemical test after the arrest if they have refused a field test.
The driver has access to the test results after the arrest, even if the officer states that the driver failed the field sobriety test. It is, therefore, possible for them to challenge the validity of the tests in court.
Before being arrested, a driver may refuse any chemical or field sobriety test. The driver is legally required to submit to at least one type of chemical test after being arrested and taken to the police station. A refusal to submit to a chemical test after being arrested will result in the suspension of a driver’s license and enhanced legal penalties.
While a field sobriety test is not mandatory, refusing to take one can lead to suspicion. In general, it is more difficult to refute the results of a chemical test than to contest those of a field sobriety test.
Should I Seek Legal Help?
DUI stops are highly fact-specific and involve complex legal concepts. If you have been pulled over for a DUI but not arrested, consulting a DUI/DWI lawyer may help you ensure your rights will not be compromised in the future. Working with a lawyer is the best way to ensure your freedom if you have been arrested for DUI.