When you are pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, it happens because the law enforcement officer has some reason to believe you have been drinking. This is an important factor, because your fate after you are pulled over will come down to the officer’s opinion. The officer has has no way of being certain that you are under the influence, it is guess. You may have reached down to scratch an itch on your knee while you were driving, causing you to swerve a little. You might be distraught over a personal or family situation causing your driving skills to not be what they normally are. Either scenario can cause flashing lights to appear in your rearview mirror, especially if it is late at night when people are more likely to be drinking. Does swerving at night automatically mean you are intoxicated or under the influence? Depending on your BAC – your blood alcohol content – you may still be perfectly capable of operating your vehicle.
When the officer first stops you, he will probably ask you to engage in a field sobriety test. The problem is that individuals can easily fail this test, even sober. Your odds of passing this test also come down to the officer’s opinion. The officer most likely already believes that you have been drinking, or he would not have pulled you over. Therefore, even if you pass with flying colors, the officer may not see it that way. The officer may focus on one action or look for a misstep, because you are expected to make a mistake. If you are frightened or nervous, you could fail, even if you have not had anything to drinkl. It helps to understand exactly what will be expected of you, and what might go wrong.
The officer will ask you to take nine steps in an unwavering line. This means that you must place one foot directly in front of the other, heel to toe, nine times. Even if you manage to do this successfully, the officer has the ability to double check and ask you to turn around and do it again. If you are wearing high heels at the time, take them off. Do the test barefoot. The officer cannot hold this against you.
Whether you pass or fail the walk-and-turn test, you could be asked to stand on one foot. You will have to hold your other foot up for an extended period of time, without allowing it to touch the ground. You will have to hold this pose until the officer allows you to stop. If the arresting officer drags the time period out long enough, you may not be able to accomplish this due to any number of reasons.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
Known as an HGM test, the arresting officer can use this tool without you even being aware of it. This test only requires the law enforcement official to shine a penlight in your eyes. If you have been drinking, your eyes will probably reflexively jerk from one side to the other when faced with direct light.
With the exception of the HGN test, these tests are subjective. If the law enforcement officer already believes you have been drinking, the officer is most likely going to expect you to fail. Any misstep on your part could be taken as evidence that you have been drinking. Even if you have not been drinking, if you fail these tests, the officer could move on to other tests, such as a breathalyzer. When testifying in court against you, the officer will have to explain – in their opinion – how you performed on these tests.
An experienced DUI defense attorney can sort through the factors of your field sobriety test and make a difference in the outcome of your sentencing. Even if you were drinking before you took the wheel, a field sobriety test cannot automatically, in and of itself, convict you. The arresting officer will need additional proof. Call us for help today. We will answer your questions and tell you honestly how strong the state’s case against you might be.