Watch Out for St. Patrick’s Day DUIs
With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, those of us who plan to go celebrate should also make plans for getting home safely. Even if you do not plan on drinking heavily and feel you could still drive, be advised – local police will be out in force. Getting yourself a cab, Uber, Lyft, or designated driver for the evening can keep a night of partying from turning into something that can haunt you for years to come – a DUI charge.
If you do end up being pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence, you do have rights. Just because a San Diego police officer asks you to do something does not necessarily mean that you have to comply.
What You Need to Know About Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests are designed to test a driver’s divided attention skills; skills that are critical while operating a vehicle. These tests may include the police officer asking the driver to stand on one leg, walk a line, or “follow the finger” with his eyes.
During the test, a driver will accumulate points. For instance, if you sway while walking on a line or use your hands for balance while standing on one leg, you will accrue points that will be held against you. The more points a driver has at the end of these tests, the drunker he is in the eyes of the officer.
The problem with these tests is that they are not always accurate. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, around 30% of drivers who are arrested after performing field sobriety tests are innocent. For this reason, these tests are not mandatory. You have a legal right to decline to take field sobriety tests when asked. But police officers are not likely to tell you this.
If a driver does not refuse the tests and fails them, the officer can then use those results as evidence for the arrest. The results can also be used against the driver both in court and at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
What You Need to Know About Breathalyzers
There are different obligations before and after an arrest. While a person can refuse a breath test before being arrested, he or she cannot do so after being arrested. If, after an arrest, a person refuses to take a breath test, he will face much larger problems in court and with the Department of Motor Vehicles, including an automatic license suspension.
It is also important for drivers to know that if a police officer smells alcohol on a person’s breath, this can be considered probable cause and the officer can make an arrest. If after that point the officer asks the driver to take a breath test, it is the best interests of the driver to comply with the breath test.
What You Need to Know About Chemical Tests
A police officer may also ask for chemical tests after the driver has been taken to the police station. These can include a blood test, urine test, or another breath test. Just as you cannot refuse a breath test after arrest, you cannot refuse chemical tests after being arrested. The good news is that drivers may choose which of these tests they want to take, and that can work in their favor.
A urine test is the least invasive chemical test, and it is also the least accurate. Because of these factors, a urine test is the best option you to choose. However, this option is sometimes unavailable. When that is the case, a blood test is the next best option.
This is because when a breath test is supplied, the officer will immediately know the driver’s breath alcohol concentration. Police can then use that information in the arrest report and even embellish the facts of the case.
A blood test, on the other hand, will take weeks to be processed at the laboratory, and the arrest report will be written before its return. That will make it much more difficult for the officer to use test results against you in his or her report. Blood, like urine, can also be retested by an independent lab, and your DUI defense attorney can request this. Breath test results, on the other hand, are discarded soon after the test is taken and cannot be retested.
What You Need to Know About Your Rights
If you are pulled over for a DUI this St. Patrick’s Day, know your rights. You may exercise your Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and not provide additional statements, and you may politely refuse any field sobriety tests before an arrest is made. While the officer may still arrest you, you should be allowed to make three complete phone calls upon arriving at the police station.
One of those calls should be to a skilled San Diego DUI defense attorney who can help you through the process and get those charges reduced or dismissed. At JD Law, our legal team has gotten many charges reduced or dismissed. For a free consultation, please call (760) 630-2000.