What Happens When Someone Is Pulled Over On Suspicion Of DWI?
If the officer stops the defendant for erratic operation shortly after the bars close, he or she is probably thinking DWI right from the beginning. If the officer stops the defendant for an equipment violation, such as a taillight infraction, then he may not be thinking DWI right away. However, if an officer smells alcohol on the defendant’s breath, then his or her suspicions will be aroused. Most officers will engage in a series of questions in order to find out where the person is coming from and when they last had anything to drink.
The officer will look at the defendant’s eyes to see if the pupils are dilated or if they are bloodshot. The officer will also observe the defendant retrieve the license and registration. The officer is looking to see if the defendant exhibits impaired motor coordination while getting these documents. The officer is also looking to see if the defendant appears confused or is unable to follow simple directions.
At some point, the officer will ask the defendant to exit the vehicle. This simple act may reveal much. As the defendant goes from a sitting position to standing and walking, the officer will be looking to see if the defendant stumbles or sways. Once the individual is outside of the vehicle, the officer will begin the field tests.
The finger to nose test has specific requirements for how it is to be administered and scored. If the police officers deviate from the protocol, we may be able to neutralize this test. The alphabet test is normally administered to people who admit that they know the alphabet. The police do not always start with the letter A. The walk-and-turn test requires the defendant to stand right heal to left toe while receiving instructions. They are usually told to take nine heel-to-toe steps down an imaginary line and then return, with arms to the side while counting the steps aloud.
The one-leg stand requires the defendant to lift one leg six inches and hold that position for thirty seconds. The horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test requires the defendant to follow a stimulus (such as a pen) that is 12 to 15 inches in front of their nose. During the HGN test, the officer looks for jerking of the eyes toward the side or the lack of a smooth pursuit of the stimulus by the eyes.
The police may also administer an Alco-Sensor, which is a portable, pocket-sized device that can rule out the use of alcohol (and therefore may shift the suspicion to the use of drugs). This test will give a reading, but the courts do not consider it sufficiently reliable to repeat the result to the jury. It can, however, support a finding of probable cause for arrest.
If the officer believes he or she has probable cause to arrest, then he or she will arrest the defendant. Once the defendant has been arrested, the following steps will ensue:
- Miranda warnings will probably be administered.
- More questioning may follow.
- A trip to the police department will occur.
- The accused will be given breathalyzer warnings.
- The police will observe the defendant for twenty minutes to ensure nothing is placed in his or her mouth.
- He or she will be given the option to take the test or refuse the test.
Defendants who do not blow sufficiently hard to get deep lung air into the breathalyzer will ultimately be marked as a refusal. This will have sanctions that we will discuss below. If the defendant takes the chemical test, the result usually ends the procedure. The defendant would then be further processed to include fingerprinting, photographing and the issuance of an arraignment or desk appearance ticket.
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