What do police officers look for when stopping suspected drunk drivers on the road?
According to the National Traffic Highway Administration, the following is a list of 20 most common “driving symptoms” exhibited by drunk drivers.
Negotiating a wide turn
Straddling along with the central marker between the lanes
Appearing to be Drunk
Near misses or hitting either another vehicle or an object
Weaving between lanes
Driving off of designated highway
Swerving within the lane lines
Speeding over 10 mph above the designated speed limit
Questionable stops in traffic lanes
Driving over-center marker between lanes
Driving against traffic
Delayed reaction to traffic signals
Inappropriate stopping or slowing
Illegal or unwarranted turns
Accelerating or slowing down quickly
Driving without headlights on
The field Sobriety Test is a series of exercises that a police officer uses in determining signs of impairment. The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established three standardized sobriety tests, which are as follows:
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test
One-Leg Stand Test
You are legally required to take any field sobriety tests. This is in stark contrast to the breath test.
Nystagmus is an involuntary jerking or bouncing of the eyeball that occurs when there is a disturbance of the vestibular (inner ear) system or the oculomotor control of the eye. Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) refers to a lateral or horizontal jerking when the eye gazes to the side. According to NHTSA, alcohol consumption or consumption of certain other central nervous system depressants, inhalants or phencyclidine, hinders the ability of the brain to correctly control eye muscles, therefore causing the jerk or bounce associated with HGN. As the degree of impairment becomes greater, the jerking or bouncing, i.e. the nystagmus, becomes more pronounced. This is assessed in the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. So when the police officer holds up his pen/finger and asks you to follow with your eyes, he is looking for nystagmus in your eyes.
While police officers are required to advise you of the 5th Amendment, it does not have to take place until after an arrest have taken place. This obligation is sometimes overlooked by the arresting officer. Similar situations occur when the suspected drunk driver is not informed of their rights with chemical testing. There is an implied consent law in Washington, D.C. which deals with a suspect’s legal requirement to consent to a chemical test and penalties if the suspect refuses. This is a regulation the suspect must be aware of as it can affect the length of suspension of their driver’s license.
Yes, however, we strongly advise against proceeding pro se in a DUI case or license suspension hearing at DMV. Defending a DUI case is a complicated matter. There are collateral consequences. You should consult with an experienced DUI attorney to evaluate your defenses.
We recognize that a DUI lawyer costs can vary quite a bit. I am sure top DUI attorneys such as Shawn Holley who represented Lindsay Lohan charges far more. The range of cost can be from $500 – $10,000.00. The fees charged by an attorney often depend on: (1) reputation of the attorney; (2) how much time is he/she going to devote to your case; (3) the complexity of your case; and (4) extra fees such as your own expert. If someone only charges you $500 for a DUI case and claims that includes their preparation for a trial and the trial itself, RUN!!! I assure you, they are not spending much time on your case, because they could not afford to keep the doors open doing that.
At the outset, you should know that defending a DUI case is not a simple matter. Please read our blog on DUI lawyer cost to get a baseline. If you have been arrested for a DUI and want to fight the charge in court and at DMV, you should understand all the defenses that may be available to you. Were you actually “driving” the vehicle within the legal definition of the Maryland Code? Did the officer have probable cause to arrest you? Did the officer Mirandize you? Did he/she give you a warning about refusing to submit to the chemical test? Was the chemical test properly administered? Was the machine properly maintained and calibrated? You may also have witnesses who can testify to your appearance and behavior prior to the arrest, e.g. you appeared to be sober, you had bloodshot eyes because you just pulled a double shift at work, you ran a red light because you were distracted by the conversation you were having with your passenger. These are just a few of the defenses you may have. Consult with an experienced DUI Attorney.
Mouth alcohol is residual alcohol that can cause a breathalyzer to give false readings. If a DUI suspect consumes a substance that contains alcohol before taking a Breathalyzer test, the exhaled air will absorb alcohol not only from the lungs but also from the substance used in the upper part of the mouth and throat. This can cause the Breathalyzer machine to show the alcohol concentration detected in the exhaled air as higher than the concentration in the lung air. Even a minute amount of undigested alcohol in a DWI suspect’s mouth can have a significant impact on a breath test reading.
Breath fresheners contain a trace amount of alcohol. Bodily functions such as hiccups, hiccups, burps, or even vomit can also affect the test results. Dental caps and bridges can capture alcohol in a crevice and be blown out by a breath. If you have acid reflux, alcohol can travel up from gastric distress.
Maryland has some of the toughest drunk driving laws in the country. It imposes severe punishment on repeat DUI offenders. The following are the penalties for DUI 2nd, 3rd, and subsequent offenders:
A “sentence enhancement” is when the law requires stiffer penalties. Typical enhancement is a previous DUI conviction within the last 5 years. But other enhancements include having a minor in the vehicle, refusing to submit to a chemical tests, blood alcohol over a certain amount, etc. The DUI may be elevated to a felony if the suspect caused personal injury to another.