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SC Roadside Field Sobriety Tests for DUI

What are those Tests the Cops Do?

It is important to know that when an officer stops someone and suspects they have been drinking and driving, that officer is gathering evidence to use in court. Many do not realize an officer is taking notes of everything they observe after stopping someone. Officers will compile a report detailing everything, how the driver looks, if they have red glassy eyes, odors of alcohol or even marijuana. The most important evidence the officer will document are the field sobriety tests and portable breathalyzer.

Commonly officers will ask the driver to perform three tests:

  • 1) the walk and turn
  • 2) one-leg stand
  • 3) horizontal gaze nystagmus

The walk and turn is when the officer asks the driver to walk 9 steps forward and 9 steps back. The one-leg stand is similar to the walk and turn as it requires balancing. The officer will ask the driver to raise one leg and count out-loud for about 30 seconds. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is where the officer moves his pen back and forth checking the drivers eyes. One last method of gaining evidence is when the officer requests the driver to submit to a portable breathalyzer on the roadside.

What the Police Don’t Want You to Know

The U.S. Constitution affords everyone many rights and it is vital to act upon your rights because it could make the difference between a conviction and a dismissal. The most important right when interacting with a police officer is the right to remain silent. You are not required to answer any questions the officer may ask you as it relates to drinking. Officers will routinely question drivers they believe to be impaired. The officer may ask the driver 3, 4, or 5 how much they have had to drink, where they have been, and what they have been drinking. Officer’s do this as a way of wearing down the defendant. The more times they ask the more information they may find out.  The most essential right, someone can invoke after they have been drinking and driving is the right to refuse.

A driver who is stopped upon suspicion of drunk driving has the right to refuse all the field sobriety tests and breathalyzer at the roadside. By refusing all of these tests, the prosecutor will have less evidence to use in court. It must be noted, though, if the driver refuses the breathalyzer at the police station, the officer can get a warrant to draw the driver’s blood. Also, if the breathalyzer at the station is refused, the NC DMV will suspend your driving privileges or license for 12 months, if you are pulled over you will be given a DWLR. If the driver does refuse the breathalyzer at the station, it will be tougher for the prosecutor to prove the driver was in fact impaired because there will be no record of the driver’s BAC. Finally if the driver refuses the breathalyzer, the driver has the right to appeal the suspension from the DMV.  In order to exercise this right, the driver must write a letter to the DMV within 10 days of their arrest, requesting a DMV Refusal Hearing. If a driver makes this request, then their driving privileges or license will remain active pending a hearing on the refusal.

With the legal limit in North Carolina being a .08 BAC, it is very easy to be above the limit and not even realize it. There are even rumblings that the NC legislature may lower the legal limit again.

If you have been charge with a DUI, contact the lawyers of Reeves, Aiken, & Hightower.