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Every DWI Arrest has 4 distinct phases- a problem with any of them could result in a drunk driving conviction: traffic stop and interrogation; conducting the three field sobriety tests; reviewing the DWI questionnaire and offering the person suspected of drunk driving the option of taking the “breath test.” It is vitally important that your DWI criminal defense lawyer be skilled at examining all of these 4 components to maximizing your chances of avoiding a DWI conviction. So, with that said, let’s look at each of these 4 stages and how an experienced DWI lawyer can help you with your drunk driving arrest. Successfully challenging the state’s DWI case at any of these stages may justify having the evidence in the case thrown out of court or, if allowed, justify an acquittal exonerating you of a drunk driving offense.

DWI Traffic Stop

The police patrol the highways and hangout in parking lots near popular bars in order to locate suspected drunk drivers. The police cannot simply detain or arrest someone coming out of a bar. They must observe them committing a minor traffic infraction so they can begin their drunk driving investigation. It is not unusual for many DWI investigations to begin with someone “touching the centerline” of the highway or failing to use their turn signal for a routine lane change. Fortunately, many police cars have video cameras that record the events leading up to the traffic stop. A good criminal defense attorney can review the video recording to determine if, in fact, the police officer can correctly establish a traffic violation. If the officer is wrong, your criminal defense attorney can file a motion to suppress the evidence and argue that your case should be thrown out of court because the police did not have probable cause to arrest you and also argue that any evidence of your intoxication should be suppressed because this is based upon an unlawful arrest.

Once you are pulled over onto the side of the road, the police officer will use the time to investigate and issue a traffic citation to evaluate you for drunk driving. You may be ordered out of your car so the police officer can observe you exiting the car and walking towards him. He is going to look to see if you sway while walking and whether you need to use your car for balance. If either is observed, those are clues suggesting impairment. Upon contacting you, the police will ask you routine questions of where you are going and whether you are aware why he pulled you over. The police officer will use this as an opportunity to observe your speech to see if it is normal or if it is slurred. They will also be checking to see whether your eyes are blood shot and whether they can smell alcohol on your breath. This is interesting because alcohol doesn’t have a “smell”, many things can lead to “blood shot eyes”, and some people have speech patterns that may seem “slurred” normally. Again, this is where video is important. A good DWI attorney can begin to challenge the police officer’s credibility by reviewing the video and contesting his observations of swaying and the manner of speech. Additionally, a good criminal defense trial lawyer can emphasize all of the things that you’ve done correctly to show that you are not impaired and should not be suspected of drunk driving.

At this point, if the officer believes you are drunk driving, he will begin a formal investigation by asking you to perform the three field sobriety tests.

The 3 DWI Field Sobriety Tests

The officer will ask you to participate in some standard field sobriety tests to determine whether you are able to drive. These two of these tests are designed for failure and are split-attention tests. None of the three tests have scores to correlate to particular blood-alcohol content. In other words, the same tests used years ago to determine whether you were drunk when a BAC% of 0.10 was the demarcation line is used today when a BAC% of 0.08% in the new standard and will be used in years to come when efforts to reduce the presumption level of intoxication becomes a BAC% of 0.05%. There are 3 standard field sobriety tests: the nystagmus test, the walk and turn test, and the one legged stand test. Placing your finger to your nose or reciting the alphabet backwards are not standard tests and are of no evidentiary value

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