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Many people have a few drinks to relax or socialize, but what happens when you enjoy a few too many, and you are faced with the decision to drive home in a potentially intoxicated state? For many people each year, this means spending the night at a police station after having been arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Any attorney will tell you that it is much safer, and much less expensive, to call a cab rather than have to hire a lawyer to defend you, nonetheless, many of you will attempt to drive despite this advice. Here are a few things to remember if you are pulled over for suspicion of DUI...


Oftentimes, there is a practical reason for pulling someone over such as speeding, crossing over traffic lines, broken tail lights, erratic driving, etc. When a driver is intoxicated, there is a greater chance of violating the traffic rules, thus, a greater chance to get pulled over. When the police officer approaches your window they will be looking for several clues that help them determine if you are intoxicated. First they will notice any smell of alcohol coming from your breath. Then they will notice if your eyes are watery and bloodshot, and if your speech sounds slurred. Most of the time the driver is asked to provide a license and proof of registration and insurance. While this seems like a trivial task, the officer is noting any fumbling while this information is being retrieved, as well as continuing to ask questions, all the while observing your behavior while your attention is split between tasks.


The officer may ask if you have been drinking. Many intoxicated drivers will reply, "only two beers." While you may think that "only two beers" is a good answer, it is not. Any admission of drinking will only add to the probable cause the officer requires for an arrest. If the officer determines that you may have been drinking and driving, they will ask you to step out of the vehicle to perform a Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST). This is a scientifically based test that is used to determine whether or not someone is intoxicated. For some, it is difficult to pass, even for those who have not been drinking, and many physical attributes (injury, obesity, disease) can interfere with an obtaining an accurate result. Remember, you do not have to take this test, and there is no penalty for refusing (do not confuse this with the breathalyzer/blood test, which carries significant penalties for refusing). If you choose to refuse this test, do so politely. Police officers have a difficult enough job and do not respond favorably to someone who has a hostile attitude.


If you should choose to take the test, there are a few tips that will help you get through it. The most important thing to remember is to listen carefully to ALL of the officer's instructions, and do not start the test until told to specifically do to so. The officer will be observing you for certain "clues" that the SFST manual dictates are indicators of intoxication. Some of those clues include whether or not you have followed all of the instructions properly, and whether you started the test before being told to do so. Do not assume that you know what the officer is going to ask you to do simply because you have watched too many episodes of Law and Order. Relax, listen and pay close attention.


There are three tests that are typically given during a SFST; the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, or "the eye" test, the One Leg Stand, and the Walk and Turn. The HGN test is when you are asked to follow the tip of a pen with your eyes. The officer will be looking for involuntary jerking motions that your eyes will make. While there are several physical reasons this could occur, officers are trained to observe this as an indicator of intoxication. The Walk and Turn is typically nine steps in one direction, a deliberate turn, and then nine steps back; heel to toe, hands by your side. The One Leg Stand requires a good sense of balance as you will be asked to raise one leg at least six inches from the ground and hold it there for a period of time; often thirty seconds or so. All the while the officer is looking for scientific clues that you are intoxicated.


If you fail the SFST, it is likely that you will be transported to the police station and booked for DUI. You will also be asked to take the breathalyzer test, or in the alternative, a blood test. Refusing this test will result in penalties that sometimes have more impact on a person's life than the DUI charge itself. In Rhode Island, refusal consequences include a minimum six-month loss of license, DUI School, community service, hefty fines, costs, fees and assessments, and more. The officer will read you a pre-printed form that explains your rights and penalties for refusing. The most important thing you can do at this point is to take advantage of the opportunity to call a DUI lawyer prior to taking the breathalyzer test. Ask for a phone book and starting calling lawyers until one answers the phone. Some DUI lawyers even have 24-hour answering services, specifically for overnight arrests, that will connect you immediately to the lawyer. Be sure to leave a call back number to the station, if at all possible, if you have to leave a message. A qualified drunk driving attorney can advise you whether or not you should take any tests given your specific facts and circumstances. At the conclusion of this ordeal, you will either be held at the police station and brought to court the next morning, or released with a summons to appear at court on a certain date. Be sure to keep all paperwork in a safe place as your attorney will ask to see it.


It is never a good idea to drink and drive. Each year many people are injured, lose their lives, or kill others on the road because of a bad decision to drive while intoxicated. No matter how close you are to home, don't risk it. The penalties are not worth the potential consequences. Designate a driver, hand over your keys, call a cab, or call a friend to ensure that you have a safe and happy holiday season.




DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is presented for reference only and is not intended to be legal advice, or create an attorney-client relationship. Consult with Mesiti Law Offices regarding the particular facts of your legal issues.

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