Probably, the only time you ever get convicted of a DWI is if you refuse the take the breath test at the station.
Let’s say for example that you’ve been pulled over in the middle of the night. The officer subjects you to field sobriety tests – which you should refuse. However, following a failed field sobriety test, and being transported to the station, people often think that they’re doing the right thing by then refusing the take the test. Unfortunately, the State has already trapped you with a DWI charge, which can result in jail time and points.
You’re driving home at O-dark-thirty. You’ve been in the bar, had a couple shots… and suddenly the lights come on behind you. You get stopped. You pull over, and the officer knocks on the window. You get your license and registration. The officer asks, “Have you been drinking tonight?” At that point most people say, “Yeah, just 2 beers.” The officer asks you to get out of the vehicle to perform a field sobriety test. These are allegedly standardized field sobriety tests. One is called the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. This test tracks your eyes, and is perhaps the only fair test; namely, it’s an involuntary twitching beyond 45 degrees. In Maryland, this only shows the presence of alcohol, but doesn’t say that you’re drunk or impaired. It should be noted that in cases involving an accident where head trauma is suffered, nystagmus can naturally occur.
The next test you’ll be asked to perform is “the walk and turn.” You stand in a particular position with one foot in front of the other and hands by your sides. The officer is going to instruct you on how to perform this test. You won’t be permitted to break that position. You’ll take 9 paces forward, heel to toe, most commonly along an imaginary line. Then you have to do a mincing circle, and 9 paces back. It only takes 2 clues to fail this test. The most common are: using your arms for balance; missing heel to toe; stepping off the line; completing the turn wrong; and breaking your position during instruction. There’s 8 clues total, and only 2 will fail you. When considering the fairness of this test, I’ll remind you that even Olympic gymnasts have to use their arms for balance, and often struggle to maintain their composure along balance beam. Despite the fact that we’re not all created equal physically, the police will subject you to these tests.
Then the officer will subject you to the one leg stand. You’ll have to raise one of your feet above six inches, and count to thirty – without lowering your foot and keeping arms by your sides. Only two clues fail you. One can be using your arms for balance, wobbling, putting your foot down (among other things.) At this point you’ve failed – as everyone does. You’re then arrested, and brought down to the station. You’ll be asked to take a breathalyzer test, and be read you your rights. If you refuse to take the test, then they already have the evidence of a failed field sobriety test to convict you of a DWI. If you do take the test, and score a .07 or above, then they’ve got you here as well. If you blow a .08 or more, now they have the evidence to charge you with a DUI, and your license will be in jeopardy of suspension, ignition interlock, points, and many other things. DUIs result from taking and failing this breathalyzer test.
Get charged with a DUI is tough; get an attorney who’s even tougher. If you have been arrested for DUI/DWI, I’m here to help. Call my office – Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law – at 410.777.8103, or fill out this contact form, and set up an appointment with an Annapolis DUI defense lawyer you can trust.
When things get tough, we get tougher. Just remember: Keep Calm – and Call Drew.