What Are Some Common Mistakes That People Make Either During The Pre-arrest, Post Arrest Or During Their Potential Trial Phase?
When it comes to field sobriety tests, one of the things to note is that even a very athletic person and even a sober person can perform poorly on the field sobriety tests. There really is never ever a good reason to do the field sobriety tests. You have the absolute right to say that you do not want to do them. All that the field sobriety tests can do is harm you. All the tests can do is give the state evidence against you. The tests where the officers take the pen back and forth, which is called the HGN or the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, should always be refused. The walk and turn; refuse that test. The one leg stand, finger to nose, or any of the tests that they do on the side of the road, you should refuse. There is no negative legal consequence for doing so.
The roadside tests are impassable by design and nature. There is nothing in the officer’s training manual that suggests that those tests can, in fact, be passed. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) is the government agency that actually comes up with these tests and validates them. NHTSA puts the tests out for the officers to be trained on these tests. There is nothing in their training manual that says, “You know, if somebody does this test perfect, then they are absolutely not impaired. Let them go.”
The officers’ training and the NHTSA’s manual training says that if you do not observe enough clues to establish impairment for your original suspicions on one test to give you more probable cause that the person is impaired, such as an odor, a flushed face, red eyes or slurred speech, then you should do another one of these tests. There are only a couple of tests that are validated through NHTSA, and if you do not see the clues on one test as an officer, you have got to do more tests. That is why agreeing to do them can only hurt you and never help you.
A caveat to that general rule is that there are legal consequences in Arizona for refusing a breath test or blood draw. You cannot refuse those tests unless you are okay with losing your license for a year because just by refusing those tests, you automatically lose your license for a year. So, whether or not to agree to those is a little bit trickier of a question. From a criminal defense standpoint, it is always better to refuse those, because it may provide an argument to defend against a DUI charge later on, but for many people, the pain of having a suspended license for a year outweighs the possible consequences of a DUI.
Another mistake that people make is they think that they must answer all the officer’s questions. So, if an officer pulls you over and you have been drinking, the officer is going to ask you as many questions as they can so they can gain evidence against you. An officer may come up to you and say, “Well, where are you headed tonight? What have you been doing?” Oftentimes, people start to talk to the officer and answer their questions.
The officer is paying attention to how you speak because if your speech is slurred, then that is evidence that you are impaired. They are paying attention to how your breath smells, which they can better smell the more you talk, and if they can smell alcohol then that is evidence of a DUI. Even though it is harder to do and as unnatural as it is to do, if you get pulled over and you have been drinking, the absolute best thing for your case is to just say, “I would like a lawyer.” Most people think, “Well, that’s going to make me look guilty!” It is much better to look guilty to an officer than for him to be able to prove to a jury later on that you actually are guilty. The judge and jury are not allowed to hold it against you that you asked for a lawyer and refused to speak. In fact, a jury never hears that you asked for a lawyer. They are not allowed to hear about it. The state cannot bring it up. All the jury knows is that you never admitted to any crime, the officer did not notice that you had slurred speech, and the officer did not smell alcohol. All of these are the types of evidence that the jury would hear if you spoke to the officer.
Along the same lines, another common mistake is that if you do speak to an officer and he asks you, “How many drinks have you had tonight?” the classic response that everybody says is, “I have had two drinks,” no matter how many they have had. People drink ten drinks at the bar and then they get pulled over for DUI and the officer says, “How many drinks have you had?” and they think, “Well, if I just minimize the amount of drinking I have done, then maybe I can get out of this.” Even if you say, “I had a sip of alcohol,” it gives the officer probable cause to get a warrant to draw your blood to find out what your BAC is. It is much better to simply say, “I want a lawyer.”
Read about the Common Mistakes People Make When Arrested for a DUI in Arizona or call the law office of Tait & Hall for your Initial Consultation at (480) 405-6767 and get the information and legal answers you’re seeking.