You see the light of a police officer in your rear-view mirror. Yes, you had a cocktail or two, but you are only buzzed, not drunk, so what’s the problem?
Being stopped by an officer when you have been drinking is frightening and potentially life-changing if you do not know your rights.
But for now, pull over, put your
hands at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock on the wheel and be polite when addressing
the officer. As he approaches you, he
needs to be reassured you are not dangerous, so being courteous may go a long
way in ultimately protecting you.
DUI – Your Rights
Do you know your rights when being pulled over under the suspicion of drunk driving?
NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has sanctioned three field sobriety tests to administer to you.
But taking these tests are optional, and that is something the officer might fail to mention.
When you are pulled over by an officer, he will try to determine if you have alcohol in your blood through these tests.
First, it’s important to understand that field sobriety testing will be inconsequential if you are belligerent or rude to the officer. If he suspects you are intoxicated and he feels threatened, he can have you jailed immediately, regardless of whether you have been drinking.
Otherwise, you will be asked to
submit to a breathalyzer test or a field sobriety test or both.
An officer will be looking for a way to establish probable cause to make an arrest for DUI (driving under the influence).
The test may involve a horizontal nystagmus gaze test (HGN), the one-leg stand, and the walk-and-turn tests. Each is designed to measure the signals that you are intoxicated.
In the HGN, the officer will ask you to follow something as he moves it to the left and the right. If the pupil starts an involuntary jerking of the eye, that may indicate you are intoxicated. NHTSA believes this test is 77% accurate.
The one-leg stand and walk-and-turn tests measure your ability to follow directions.
These tests are not foolproof. A person with a compromised nervous system might have trouble walking a straight line. An elderly person who is not intoxicated may also be challenged standing on one leg.
You do have the right to refuse to take the field sobriety test. When you do so, you will then be asked to breath into a device to measure your blood alcohol content (BAC). This is commonly known as a preliminary breath test (PBT), and you can refuse this test as well.
If you are arrested for DUI, you will most likely be given a breathalyzer test at the police station to measure the amount of alcohol in your system. If your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08% or above, you are considered legally drunk. Alternatively, you may be given a blood or urine test in some situations.
If you opt to refuse this test, Alabama Code stipulates your driver’s license will be suspended for 90 days. You may have to find a way home without your car.
A refusal and losing your license
for three months may be preferential to a DUI conviction. And consider if you
take the test and fail, it could result in jail time.
If you agree to the test, measuring your BAC will determine the degree of your intoxication which can bring you jail time and a fine. In addition:
- The first conviction with a BAC of 0.15% or less can bring you a temporary license suspension of 90 days, unless you opt to have the ignition interlock device installed.
- If your BAC is greater than 0.15%, the ignition
interlock device will be installed with no other choice and the license will be
suspended for one year or revoked for 90 days.
- A second conviction will bring a 2 year license
suspension and a mandatory ignition device.
- A third conviction, the license is suspended for
three years and after serving 60 days of suspension a mandatory ignition
interlock device is installed for three years.
- A fourth or subsequent conviction can mean you lose your license for one year and have the device installed for five years.
DUI Testing Accuracy
As you can imagine, the accuracy of these field tests is highly subjective. An experienced DUI lawyer can assess the professionalism of the officer in the field. Did he administer the tests correctly? How accurate has the officer been in the past?
The HGN test cannot be used to establish a drivers’ level of intoxication and there is no evidence a sober person who is tired from work will perform better than someone who is intoxicated.
If you are in the position to defend your rights after being pulled over for a suspected DUI, Jason Darley will be by your side to provide you with experienced representation. Please call his Mobile office at (251) 441-7772 to get the conversation started.