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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Stopped in Nashville for DUI - Do I have to take the field sobriety test?

Do you know your legal rights if you see this in your rearview mirror?  The answer for most people is, "No, not really".

That is why you need an experienced criminal defense attorney that will not only help you with your current Nashville criminal case... but also teach you about future police conduct.  At Ridings Law Group, PC, we do just that.  Attorney David G. Ridings is a Nashville Criminal Lawyer with experience on every side of the legal system.  And, he does more than just represent you.  He will teach you about how to deal with police contact, and what your rights and obligations are for future stops.

For example… Many people know that when stopped for Driving Under the Influence (DUI), the officer will always ask you to perform a "few tasks" to determine the level of impairment of the driver. These "tasks" are commonly referred to as Standardized Field Sobriety Tasks/Tests" (SFT's).

But, aren't you "required" to do everything the police ask you to do?  The answer is, "No.  Not always."  But, the way you are asked to do them, makes it sound that way.  So, how do you know what to do?  You educate yourself.

In fact, many people do not realize that you are NOT required to take the standardized field sobriety tests (SFT's) when asked to do so by a police officer.  A great number of people realize that they are not required to submit to a breath or blood test… but most do not know they can also refuse the field sobriety tests, such as the Walk and Turn, the One Legged Stand, and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (HGN).

Even those who do know that, don't know how to articulate "why" they do not want to take the tests.  Do you?

As a former Metro Police Officer, and with my experience at the District Attorney's Office in Nashville Davidson County, as well as my 13 + year criminal defense practice… I have experienced every side of the criminal justice system over the last 24 + years.  With that said, one of the best reasons I can think of to refuse the SFT's is that they are "subjective" in nature.  They are clearly not an objective way to measure the level of intoxication of a person, because there are so many other factors to consider when you talk about balance, attention span, and ability to follow directions.   Furthermore, the officer is never going to use terms like "pass" or "fail".  They will use terms like "he/she showed 'indicators of impairment'."  Therefore, the best answer to the police officer when asked "to take a few tests" would be to point out the fact that these tests are "subjective" and not a true indication of impairment.  (i.e. … "Officer, I am sorry, I don't want to be difficult, and I respect your job... but I don't want to take any of these tests because they are subjective measurements and not true indicators of impairment".)  In other words, the officers can articulate themselves in such a manner to make the results come out however they want them to come out.

So… if you find yourself in that situation, (i.e. pulled over by the police for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) investigation... sometimes the best thing to do would be to refuse all such tests, including the SFT's and the Breath or Blood test.  Without that evidence, the police are forced to present other evidence of intoxication such as any driving infractions you made, and personal observations of you after the stop to convince a jury you were impaired.  Those observations are usually the same in every report... such as he/she had "slurred speech" and was "unsteady on his or her feet", as well as the standard "bloodshot and watery eyes".  Of course you almost always get the  "he/she smelled strongly of an intoxicant" either "about his person" or  "from his/her expelled breath".  But even with those standard lines that appear in almost every DUI arrest report, without the evidence from the standardized field sobriety test as well as the Blood or Breath Test...  proof of impairment is a much harder sell to the jury.

Having said that... it is always important to remember this... 

There is not one standard answer to the question of "should I take a test".  Every situation is different.  This blog is simply an article about whether or not you are "required" to take the SFT's, and is not intended as a guide for "every" stop.  

... the best practice, or course, is to NEVER drink and drive!  You need to know your body, and how much you can drink before you become "impaired".  But if you have consumed anything that could impair your ability to drive, or if there is a question about that... play it safe and get another ride home.  Getting arrested is EXPENSIVE, and it has a great effect on your job, your family, and your future.  It is ALWAYS cheaper to get a cab!

With all of this said... if you find yourself charged with DUI in Nashville, and have already submitted to the SFT's and/or blood or breath test…it is not the end of the world, and there IS help out there from experienced attorneys.  There are, actually, MANY ways to refute the reliability of such tests.  For example, they have to be measured and conducted in a very specific way.  The National Traffic and Highway Safety Administration (NTHSA) says that if you vary from the standard protocol of administering these tests, then the results are useless as an indicator of impairment.
But I will save all of that for a future post.

That is why you need an experienced Nashville DUI attorney to guide you through that process of defeating the reliability of those results. You need the best Nashville DUI Lawyer you can find.  

That is why you should contact Ridings Law Group, PC and/or David G. Ridings, directly, as your Nashville DUI Attorney.

Call or email Attorney David G. Ridings today for a free consultation about your case.
Office:  615-851-1888


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