When You Have Been Stopped for or Charged with DUI for the First Time

It can happen to just about anyone. You go out to dinner or stop at a friend’s house. You have a couple of beers or a glass or two of wine. On the way home, you get stopped by police, who ask if you have had anything to drink. When you answer honestly, they ask you to submit to field sobriety tests, or may immediately request that you take a breathalyzer or blood alcohol. If you haven’t been charged yet, what can you do? If you agree to take the test and your blood alcohol exceeds the legal limit, what are your options?

If you haven’t been arrested yet, but have just been pulled over, the first question you should ask is why the police officer made the traffic stop. Law enforcement officers must have probable cause to pull you over. You must have committed a traffic violation or the officer must have reasonable belief that you have violated the law. You don’t need to get into a debate with the officer over whether or not there was good cause to pull you over, but your attorney will want this information.

If the police officer requests a field sobriety or blood alcohol test, can you legally refuse? The answer is yes. Pennsylvania has an implied consent law, which states that anyone who operates a motor vehicle on the roadways in the state impliedly consents to chemical testing to determine blood alcohol content. Even so, you still have the right to refuse to take the test. However, the consequences of refusal can be significant. You will lose your driving privileges for a minimum of one year, and your charge will be placed in a higher tier for purposes of sentencing, which means your punishment will likely be more severe.

If you take a breathalyzer or blood alcohol test and fail, you still have rights. Don’t think that you should just plead guilty and throw yourself on the mercy of the court. Your lawyer can still examine the facts and circumstances of your arrest, to determine whether your constitutional rights were violated. If the police lacked probable cause to stop you, or failed to advise you of your rights when taking you into custody, some or all evidence obtained may be inadmissible in court. Furthermore, field sobriety and BAC tests may have been improperly conducted, or the test results may have been compromised.

At Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLP, we prove a free initial consultation to every client. Contact us by e-mail or call us at 717-233-5292 to schedule a meeting with one of our attorneys. We speak Spanish and understand the impact a criminal charge can have on your efforts to become or remain a permanent citizen.

Field Sobriety Tests and DUI Arrests

Harrisburg DUI Defense Attorneys

Most people that have been arrested on a charge of drunk driving don’t stop to think about their field sobriety test and whether it should be challenged. Too often people arrested for DUI assume that a failed field sobriety test constitutes additional proof against them that they were driving drunk. What most people arrested for DUI don’t realize is a field sobriety test must be given according to a certain protocol. Some police departments require officers to be trained in how to properly conduct a field sobriety test; others, however, do not. Since field sobriety tests are used to establish probable cause to administer a breath test or make a DUI arrest, if conducted improperly the court may be compelled to dismiss the DUI charge against you.

Conducting a Field Sobriety Test – Issues to Consider

Most police departments use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Student Manual when training officers in how to conduct field sobriety tests. The manual is technical and thorough in places, specifying the conditions under which a field sobriety test must be given as well as what an officer is supposed to do if a suspect stops momentarily, shifts his or her weight, or raises his or her arms above a certain height. Field sobriety tests are supposed to be given on even, dry pavement. As such, whether or not your test was given on a slight incline, if it was raining or snowing at the time, or if there was broken pavement in the area may determine whether or not your field sobriety test can be used against you.

How Reliable are Field Sobriety Tests?

A common criticism of the field sobriety test is that it’s simply not reliable enough. First, the officer who administers it acts as your judge and jury: he’s the one that conducts the test AND the one who judges whether or not you passed it. As such, you’re at the mercy of the knowledge and skill of the officer who conducts the test.

Secondly, in a study conducted by S. Cole & R.H. Nowaczyk, officers were asked to watch a film of 21 people with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.00 perform the field sobriety test. Of the officers selected to participate in the study, 46% thought the people on film had had too much to drink. This raises serious questions about the reliability of the field sobriety test and the ability of officers to make a good determination of whether or not someone has failed it.

Arrested on a DUI Charge? Contact Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLC

If you’ve been arrested for DUI, contact Harrisburg DUI defense attorneys at Laguna Reyes Maloney, LLC today. We can evaluate your DUI case and determine if there is good reason to believe your field sobriety test was administered improperly.

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