No one expects to find themselves faced with taking a roadside sobriety test and the possibility of getting a DWI. In 2010 alone, 1.4 million people were arrested for driving under the influence, and about two-thirds of those arrests were first time offenses. You may believe that you have no say in the matter, but you have more control over the situation than you may think. Knowing your rights in the event you are stopped can keep you from facing unnecessary penalties.
Should I Take a Field Sobriety Test?
The Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) are completely voluntary! You have the right to refuse one and request a lawyer. Be polite and stay calm when refusing, though. It can be a stressful situation, but there is no reason to give in to belligerence or rudeness. In fact, acting in such a way doesn’t do you any favors – it can give some cops an excuse to escalate the situation. Keep in mind that your refusal to take the SFSTs may not prevent the officer from arresting you if they notice other evidence of alcohol usage such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, stagger, and poor driving.
How Accurate are Field Sobriety Tests?
There are several tests an officer may ask you to perform in order to assess your balance, coordination, and attention level: the One Leg Stand (OLS), the Walk and Turn (WAT), and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN). While these tests may boast a 65-77% reliability rating (which translates to 23-35% INACCURATE), they may be difficult for some individuals to perform even if they are not intoxicated. These tests often lead an officer into falsely believing a driver to be under the influence. You can be penalized just for being a little tired, distracted, or sick! How fair is that?
How Accurate is a Breath Test (Intoxilyzer 5000EN)?
Like any technological device, Breath Tests can be influenced by outside factors and operator error. Issues with calibration, software maintenance, contamination, and even low batteries can cause inaccurate readings. Other problems including ignoring manufacturer’s instructions (such as failing to observe a 15-minute deprivation period), waiting at least 4 minutes between tests, or clearing the prior test results.
To Blow or Not to Blow
Breath tests are easier to beat than blood tests. We’ve already looked at the potential inaccuracies of the Breath Tests, but if an officer requests to take your blood, you may politely refuse it as well. Please note, however, that police can get a warrant for your blood regardless. In this event, do not fight the blood draw; you could be charged with obstructing a police investigation or resisting arrest. When deciding to not comply with either a Breath Test or a blood test, always remain calm and be polite.
Whether to ultimately submit to breath or blood is a complicated decision. You would have to know what county you are in; are they going to get a warrant; are you over a 0.15; and if so, how far over; how long does it take to get a blood test; how much did you have to eat; what is your metabolism like; are there any drugs in your system; etc… There is no one clear answer.
Personally, in Harris County, while they are still using the Intoxilyzer 5000EN (hunk of junk), I would say blow don’t bleed. First, in Harris County they will get a warrant 24/7. And I’d rather fight the Intoxilyzer result than the blood test. Don’t get me wrong, I win lots of blood tests too, but it’s just easy pickens right now with the Intoxilyzer 5000EN.
How do I Avoid Getting Charged with a DUI?
First and foremost, the best practice is to not drink and drive. Assign a designated driver or call a taxi service or Uber if you’ve been drinking. However, if you do find yourself being pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence, remain calm and remember to always be respectful to the officer. Should you refuse to take a SFSTs or Breath Test, do so courteously. You might still be arrested, but you certainly do not want to add resisting arrest, impeding an investigation, or assaulting an officer to the charges.
When Should I Hire a Lawyer?
The team here at Thiessen Law Firm wants you to be fully aware of your rights when it comes to roadside sobriety tests, chemical tests and the other routines you might expect if you get pulled over. If you or a loved one are facing DWI charges, contact the DWI Super Lawyer for a consultation.