Being stopped by a police officer after having consumed alcohol is one of the most unnerving experiences anyone can ever face. The first reaction is such an instance is to panic and over-react as the heart starts pounding.
The key in such situation, however, is to remain calm and polite as the officer surveys you and the scene, according to DUI Attorney Shane W. Surrette. The officer will initially ask you for your license and vehicle registration and he is going to watch how you are able to produce these documents. You will then be asked where you are coming from and how much you had to drink. Again observations will be made of how you answer and react to these questions, as well as your manner of speech.
Similarly, you will be asked to exit the vehicle and you will be judged on how you are able to exit the vehicle and how your balance is upon exiting the vehicle. You will then be asked to perform a series of field sobriety tests, where the officer is looking for certain clues as you perform these tests.
For example, in the nine step walk and turn test, they will look for whether you are able to balance during instructions; start when instructed; maintain heel to toe as you walk; step off-line; raise your arms for balance; stop; turn correctly; and whether you take the correct number of steps. As some people have better balance generally speaking than others, there can be numerous reasons why you might be unsuccessful on a test such as this without being under the influence of alcohol.
Keep in mind that the police are generally going to ask you to do these tests because they at least have suspicion that you are impaired by alcohol. You have in Massachusetts, however, an absolute right to refuse to perform these tests, and such refusal can’t be admitted against you in the Commonwealth’s case in chief.
As a result, unless you know that you have extraordinary balance and you will be unaffected by the flashing lights of the police cruiser coupled with the road conditions and the passing motorists, most of the time it is advisable to refuse field sobriety tests.
Without any observations of your performance on the field sobriety tests, the police will be forced to decide if you are under the influence of alcohol based upon their observations of your driving and their interaction with you in what is commonly a very short period of time.
This decision to arrest need only be based on probable cause to believe that you have driven while under the influence of alcohol. If it can go either way, the police will almost always arrest.
So if you are going to be arrested anyway, don’t enhance the government’s case. Remember to remain calm, polite, and unless you know you have great balance and coordination, it is ok to say no I’m not doing the field sobriety tests, according to DUI Attorney Surrette.
Please check back for future blog posts detailing what to do when arrested and booked for operating under the influence of alcohol, and whether it is advisable to take a breathalyzer test.