Mt. Pleasant, SC DUI Attorney
Anatomy of a DUI
Law enforcement in the state of South Carolina are trained at the Criminal Justice Academy. There, they are instructed that the anatomy of a DUI, or DUI detection, comprises of three distinct phases. These three phases consist of:
- Vehicle in motion;
- Personal contact;
- Pre-arrest screening.
What happens when Police Stop you for a DUI?
Vehicle in Motion: begins with the officer’s initial observation of your “vehicle in operation.” Based on that observation the officer must decide if there is probable cause to conduct a lawful traffic stop. As the officer conducts that traffic stop he or she is watching what is called the stopping sequence, essentially looking at how well you handle your vehicle as you bring it to a stop.
Personal Contact: the face-to-face observation and interview of the driver. Here, the trained officer is listening to how well you answer his or hers questions, what do they smell, what do they see. From that observation, the officer must decide if there is sufficient cause to instruct the driver to get out of the vehicle to conduct further investigation. When this happens your ability to get out and walk from the vehicle is all being judged. You are now probably placed in front of the police cruiser where you are about to be asked to perform a Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST). Many people are unaware that you do NOT have to perform these tests but nearly everyone does because they believe they have no option (the officer is not required to tell you it’s not mandatory) and sometimes they believe that they will be successful in a test that they have never seen or performed before in their life.
What are Field Sobriety Tests?
Standard Field Sobriety Test: Below is a brief description of the three standard field sobriety tests administered by police. Important to note is that these tests are not mandatory. Police are not required to tell you this and they never will, the field sobriety tests are an evidence gathering tool to make an arrest so it is your decision whether you feel you can pass (beat) the test but sometimes the best evidence is to not provided it in the first place.
HGN testing: this test is commonly performed with a lighted pen in front of your face being moved from side-to-side a certain number of times at a certain distance. Police are looking for the involuntary jerking of the eye (HGN) which can occur naturally, through certain medications, or enhanced through the consumption of alcohol.
Walk-and-turn: test is a “divided attention” test where you are 1) given instructions on how to perform the test and then 2) you perform the test while counting the number of steps out loud and keeping your arms to your side.
One-leg-stand test is another divided attention test where you will be asked to raise one leg six inches off the ground, while keeping your foot parallel to the ground, hold that position with your arms by your side and count out loud like 1001, 1002 until you are told to stop (usually 30 seconds).
The final phase is to arrange for a breath test. You can refuse to provide a breath sample but this will result in an immediate suspension of your driver’s license (See License suspension). The purpose of the breath test is to demonstrate or confirm the association of alcohol with the officer’s personal observation of the driver’s alleged impairment. In short, to build their case against you and gather more evidence.
What a Cop says about how they make a DUI Arrest
Click on this article Walk the line: How police determine if you’re DUI printed in the the Aiken Standard on January 6, 2014 and see what Capt. Eric Abdullah from the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office says about the anatomy of a DUI, detection, and enforcement. You will notice at the end of the article I highlighted a portion where he was quoted as saying “We just prefer if you’ve consumed some kind of alcohol, be sure to have a designated driver.” What’s interesting about this statement is that SC laws do not make it illegal to drink and drive only that you cannot be materially and preciably impaired. That’s one of the reasons for so many DUI arrests, law enforcement believe that if you drink at all then you are DUI.