The best way to avoid a DUI in Jackson, Ridgeland, Madison, or any of the surrounding cities is to not drink and drive. But, what do you do if you have had a drink and you get stopped by the police? You have options, but none are going to be pleasant. I will tell you that in my opinion, no matter what the officer says to you to get you to cooperate with him and take the Field Sobriety Tests and the Intoxilizer tests, in almost every case the law enforcement officer will take you to jail if there is alcohol on your breath. You need to know that many police officers are vying to get a gold plated pin to wear on their uniform. They only get the gold platted pin if they make 100 DUI arrests in a year.
When you get stopped the police officer may ask you to blow in a portable breath test machine. This is a small hand-held device that informs the officer if there is alcohol on your breath. The “readout” or measurement is not admissible, but it is admissible to show the machine tested positive for alcohol. If the officer does not have a portable breath test machine, he may ask you to perform three (3) Field Sobriety Tests.
One of the tests is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagumus. The Officer places a pen in front of your face and asks you to follow the pen with your eyes while he checks on a jerking movement of the eyes caused by alcohol consumption. The next test is the Stand On One Leg Test. The last test is the Walk the Line Test. These are the only three (3) Field Sobriety Tests authorized by the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration and the only tests taught to the DUI officers. Sometimes we see officers offering other tests, but other tests are not approved.
You have the choice and right to either perform these tests or not. Usually officers get very angry when you refuse to cooperate and take the tests. The officers can get hostile and may say many things to you in order to convince you to take the tests. You have to make the decision. Most attorneys have advised clients not to cooperate, but the hostility or persuasiveness of the officer often convinces many people to take the tests. You should remember that these tests are designed to allow the officer to build a case against you. If you should decide to take the tests you should try to remain calm and do your very best to perform the tests to the best of your ability. If you do not understand the instructions, be sure to ask the officer to repeat the instructions before you begin.
The Officer will also ask you what you had to drink when he stops you. This is also a very difficult decision. When an office smells alcohol on a person driving a car he is usually going to take the driver to jail. If you are asked what you had to drink, you may be better off asking to speak with your lawyer first before you answer any questions. If you admit to a few beers and a mixed drink, that is going to be enough alcohol to put you above .08% on the Intoxillzer 8000. I want to repeat again that officers can get very angry and hostile when they stop you at night and you don’t answer their questions or perform the Field Sobriety Tests. You need to remember that you have the right not to answer the questions and not to perform the tests should you choose.
Being on the side of road surrounded by one or more police officers can be an intimidating situation for almost everyone. It can make a person nervous and cause one to perform poorly on the Field Sobriety Tests. In addition, the hostility of the officer on the scene can also make a person nervous. I have seen police offices in Court attempt to perform the Field Sobriety Tests and fail. I cannot tell you what to do at night if you are stopped by the police and suspected of DUI. I can only tell you what your rights are, and I can say that in my thirty (30) years experience if the police officer smells alcohol, you are going to jail and you will be charged with DUI even if you pass the Field Sobriety Tests.
I will follow up this post with a third in this series on what to do after the officer puts you under arrest.
Coxwell & Associates is a law firm with extensive experience defending driving under the influence cases in Jackson, Ridgeland and Madison, Mississippi.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.