How an Officer Can Assess if You Have Been Drinking

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that over 10,000 people died in a traffic collision that included a driver with a BAC level over the legal limit. To check who is drinking and driving on the roads, officers employ a number of tools to increase the accuracy of their inspection. It happens to many people.

You are driving home after an evening out and you find yourself pulled over by an officer for a driving violation. The more they question you the more they may come to suspect you have been drinking. Before they even ask you to step out of the car they have already begun assessing you to determine if you have been drinking. There are a few steps that an officer can take in order to better help them determine if you have been drinking and should not be driving as a result. What are known as field sobriety tests have been developed in an effort to give officers useful tools that assist them to better assess a situation. Some may appear to be drinking even if they have not or other times a person may not initially demonstrate the level of their intoxication until they are inspected further.

One of the most common forms of testing officers’ use while on the roads is known as a breathalyzer test. There are various types of these devices and different states may choose to use their own. A breathalyzer reads amount of alcohol in a person breath to give an estimate of their blood alcohol content level. This form is not full proof and has a margin of error. While it can come with faults, in many cases it is the best form of evidence an officer has against the suspect. Not only will the officer look at the chemistry of a person and assess what is going on internally. They can note any outside signs through the behavior and ability of a person. Testing the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus is another common assessment that is easily done by an officer questioning a person. The eyes of a person will involuntarily move at certain angles, however, when a person has significant alcohol in their system they will have more excessive jerking that they are unable to control. Officers will use a light or a pen and have the suspect follow it with their eyes. This can help them to view the function of the eyes and determine if it is normal or points to further issues.

Other times those that are impaired will typically have trouble maintaining their balance. When conducting the One-Leg Stand test an officer will have the suspect in question try to hold themselves up on only one leg. If a person is found to be hopping back and forth, putting their foot down, holding their arms out for help balancing or they are swaying, this is often times an indication of impairment. The Walk-and-Turn test has the suspect walk along a straight line and then pivot on one foot and return back the way they came. An officer will be looking to see if the person follows their instruction, if they need to stop, if they walk off the line, if they do not turn correctly, if they cannot balance, if they take the wrong amount of steps, if they fail to touch heel to toe or if they use their arms to help them balance.

The overall appearance of a person is widely used to determine if they are under the influence. Slurred speech and staggering are just some of the signs that a suspect may have been drinking above the legal limit of .08%. Any of these tests can be used and combined for an officer that is questioning a person they suspect may have been drinking. While they are useful and can provide added insight, they are not without fault and can leave an innocent person charged. Different estimations are made as to how accurate each individual test is and in some cases the lack of sufficiency a test provides can cause the charge to be thrown out. In many cases it falls to the discretion of an officer to determine if a person seems too impaired to drive. If they believe they are, and after running their tests their suspicions are confirmed, they can choose to place the individual under arrest. Those convicted can face jail time, license suspension or revocation, and fines along with further charges that can be left up to the court to determine.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marietta DUI attorney
The Glasgow Law Firm is a reputable firm based out of Marietta that defends individuals that are being charged for DUI or other criminal charges. It is a firm that vigorously seeks to protect the rights of clients and give them a voice when they are up against the powerful force of law enforcement. A Marietta DUI attorney has worked formerly as a prosecutor and understands how they opposition may think. With a strong work ethic instilled in him, Attorney Bart Glasgow knows the dedication and effort that goes into a case. If you are charged for a crime including a DUI you can be facing damaging penalties and you need a defendant to fight for you. Don’t hesitate to contact a Marietta DUI lawyer from the firm as soon as possible.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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