So You Want to Avoid a DWI? Have I Got Some News for You...
So you're driving. Everyone drives right? You've had a few drinks. You've done this too, don't say you haven't. You might be 5 minutes, 5 miles, 25 miles, or an hour from home. It can happen to you. You think you're fine. You've only had about 5 beers and a shot of tequila in a 5 hour period. No sweat. All the sudden you see flashing lights...
Step 1: Don't panic.
You have some gum? Grab it. Body Spray? Hurry hurry! Eyedrops? Eh, a little too late for those, he's already on his way. He's at your window. You look down at your watch. It's only 11:30. He probably won't even know you've been drinking..... Wrong. You're under the age of 97, and you're driving after the late hour of 8:30 PM. They'll assume you've been drinking. Get ready to begin! He's going to ask you to first produce your license and insurance paperwork. Then he's going to ask you to step out of the car. There are a few questions you need to ask yourself. We'll go over those in step 2.
Step 2: How drunk am I really.....
The next question you need to ask yourself is this... "How drunk am I really?". Don't kid yourself on this one. Are you plastered? Can you see straight? Are you slurrrrrrrrring? Could you walk a straight line if you had to? Would your mom know if you were drunk or not? Did you just pee your pants? If the answer to these questions lead you to believe that you aren't drunk, then you have a couple of different options. In the next section, I will explain to you what a field sobriety test is, what the police officer is looking for, and the pros and cons of performing a field sobriety test as opposed to refusing to take one.
Step 3: To agree or not to agree...
Ok, so the officer is at your window. He's probably already ran your license and seen your insurance. Now here comes the money question: "Sir/Ma'am, will you please step out of the car, I smell alcohol/you were swurving/your tail light is out/I saw your inspection was out when you were going 60 on the highway/your right tire is a little balder than your left/I saw an illegal glare in your mirror as you were travelling 5 miles below the speed limit/I'm just a huge prick and I stopped you for no reason at all but I'm going to scare the shit out of you and ruin your whole world by putting you on the spot asking to step out of the car and take a field sobriety test.
First, I'll go over exactly what a field sobriety test is.
Motorists suspected of DUI / DWI are routinely asked by police officers to perform one or more field sobriety exercises. These voluntary "tests" (yes, voluntary) were developed by police agencies to assist law enforcement officers in making roadside determinations as to whether a motorist is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Through the performance of these tests or evaluations, the officer subjectively determines how the motorist reacts to and performs the requested tasks.
These tests include:
· One Leg Stand-The subject must stand with heels together with arms at his sides, raise one leg about 6 inches off the ground, and hold that position for 30 seconds without swaying, using his arms for balance, or putting the foot down.
· Walk-and-Turn-The subject must walk nine steps heel-to-toe in a straight line, turn by pivoting on his left foot, and walk nine heel-to-toe steps back without swaying, stopping, stumbling, using his arms for balance, taking too few or too many steps, or walking in other than a straight line.
· Finger Count-The subject must touch and count each finger in succession counting "1-2-3-4-5, 5-4-3-2-1" out loud.
· Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)-The subject must follow the movement of a small light or object without moving his head. The officer looks for jerking of the eyes or "nystagmus" when the moving object is at an angle of 45 degrees or less. Besides determining the angle at which nystagmus begins, the officer also must observe and evaluate any breakdown in smooth eye pursuit of the target and the distinctiveness of the nystagmus at the point at which the eye has moved as far to the side as it will go.
· The Rhomberg Balancing Test - The subject is instructed to stand upright, with their hands at their side. The subject is told to tilt their head back and keep their eyes closed. The officer instructs the subject to silently count to 30 and inform the officer when 30 seconds elapses.
Ok, so now you know what the officer will probably have you do. Do you *really think you can pass these tests without the officer suspecting that you've had a few alcoholic beverages (as tasty as they may be)? If your answer isn't "Hell yeah, I could pass without a sway, a wobble, a wiggle, or a 'whoops'", then go for it.
Keep in mind, if you refuse this test, you WILL GO TO JAIL without further questioning. That might be advantageous depending on your situation, however, we'll go through that later in more detail. Now, for the most part, when a police officer takes you out of your car to actually do the field sobriety test, his intentions are to get you on camera doing something that will they will be able to use later in a court of law to prosecute you for a DWI. It is a very rare occasion where an officer will do a field sobriety test and deem you "drive worthy". This is just a way for you to incriminate yourself on camera, which will, in course, be evidence against you in a court of law. Trust me, it's all a song and dance, so unless you truly think you can pass these tests *on camera* and use it as good evidence FOR your case, don't do it. Basically, if you pass these tests with flying colors, chances of you going to jail minimize, and you might possibly be let go. That's the chance you take when you agree to this test . If you're wasted, do not agree to take the SFST as it will only hurt you later on when you're trying to get your case dismissed.
Step 4: To Blow or not to Blow...
This section of the tutorial will be a marginally short one. Unless you are Sotally Tober, do NOT under any circumstances blow. Law Enforcement uses the Intoxilyzer 5000 Breathalyzer to measure your Blood Alcohol Content, or BAC. You can find more information about this device at the link below.
A BAC of .08 or higher puts you over the legal limit. So if you blow, and you blow over, then in court, that makes you look very bad, and your chances of a dismissal or reduction are dramatically decreased. Keep in mind that this device has a variance that is accepted nationwide of .02. So if you blow a .08, a good lawyer can immediately argue it down to a .06. That's a little besides the point however, if you've had anything to drink, the recommended answer to the age old question "sir, will you willingly submit to a breathalyzer".... If you're smart, your answer should be "No, go ahead and take me to jail".
Step 5: The Breakdown...
Ok, in this section, I'm going to basically break everything down and summarize it for you, and I'm going to do this by scanario. You have a few variations. Did SFST/didn't blow,SFST/did blow, and no SFST/did not blow.
1. SFST/didn't blow: In this scenario, as long as you passed the SFST on camera without so much as a wobble, then the prosecution will probably not have a very strong case against you, and you'll either get to plea the case down to a lesser offense, or even a possible dismissal. Remember, you have to have a lawyer, which is gonna cost you, then if the prosecution doesn't offer something that will not stay on your record for the rest of your life and make it so you won't be able to get certain jobs, get hassled every time you get pulled over, huge fines and fees, and also charge your first unborn child, then you might want to opt for a trial by jury. Again, this is timely, and costly for you. Our court system is totally and completely based on money. If you have it, you might be able to get off with a wrist slap, if not, then the wrist slap will be the sound of hand cuffs tightening around them. It's a crappy way, but it's the American way.
2. SFST/did blow: Ok, here is where you basically (pardon my french), "dicked" yourself. You're pretty much F'ed here. They have proof on video, and in your breath test. The only thing that will play in your favor here, is, if you blew under of course. I've seen it where people pass the SFST, AND pass the breath test, and they still take the person to jail. If a cop is determined to take you to jail, you're going to go. Again, it's all about the money. Them more people they take to jail, the more people have to be bailed out, the more that have to go to court, pay court costs (even if you're found innocent) and get scared into taking "deals" with the prosecution on things that they shouldn't have to be paying for in the first place, but I digress.... I'll go into the basic rigamarore (<--- the love of making up words) after I go through these scanarios of a typical DWI stop and what you'll go through all the way up until your last probationary appointment.
3. No SFST/didn't blow: This is your best scenario possible. There is no record of you being intoxicated other than the walk from your car to the back of the squad car. Other than that, the prosecution won't have a leg to stand on, as long as you kept your mouth shut and weren't a complete prick to the officer. Of course, the prosecution will threaten and make you sweat all the way up to your final court date, but for the most part, you will probably get this one reduced to a traffic violation or dismissed. Again, there are different circumstances on every case - How bad were you while driving on the video, were you a complete douchebag to the officer and slurring your words, were there 4 officers at the scene who all can attest to how drunk you were, yadda yadda yadda.... But typically, if you mind your p's and q's, and didn't hit anything while driving, and weren't a blobbering fool on camera, then you have a good chance of fighting this one.
Step 6: Your night of Terror
Ok, so now I'm going to lay out for you just whats going to happen on this night of TERROR. It sucks. You're going to jail. What can you do? So many thoughts are going through your head. "My life is over", "my parents are going to kill me", "I don't have any money, what do I do?", "I don't have anyone to call", "Mannnnn, I reallllllly have to peeee". Well, get ready for a costly endeavor. For those of you who don't know how our justice system works, for those of us with a couple extra bucks, we can attempt to get out of jail, pay a lawyer a hefty fee, pay some fines, pay some more fines, do community service, pay more fines, go to classes, and finally, be done with the whole damn thing. For those of us who don't, we get to sit in jail until our court date. Sounds great huh!?
Depending on what city you're in and how their jail system works, you'll most likely have to bail out using a bail bondsman. For your first DWI, your bond will probably be somewhere around 3000 dollars. That means you'll be paying a bail bondsman 10-15% of that. Yep, 300-400 bucks to get you out. Now, keep in mind, you'll have to get someone to come and cosign for you. They don't come get you, and THEN you pay. Oh ho ho ho ho no. You have to call someone from inside the jail. You remember that old saying "I want my phone call! I want my 1 phone call!". It's not like that anymore. You get to use a pay phone, that only does collect calling. Yep, that's right. You have to not only remember the phone number of the person you're calling, but also their number has to accept collect calls. So no cell phones. I said it. No cell phones. Has to be a house phone that accepts collect calling. They make it SO easy for you to get out of jail don't they? Oh, I forgot to mention, that again, depending on what city your in (most major cities have a 24/7 judge while smaller cities have a 9-5er) you'll have to see the judge before anyone can do anything for you. There is always the option of a PR bond, but you have to hire a lawyer for that, and calling a lawyer from inside the jail can sometimes be a little easier said than done, especially if you've never hired one before. So we'll skip that for the sake of the article.
So you're in jail. They stick you in a room with 20 other smelly, drunk, nasty looking people, and then they give you a nice.... holey.... smelly.... not worth a fart blanket to sleep on. Everything is either concrete or metal, and eveything smells like urine. The jailers are complete asses. If you need anything at all..... You aren't going to get it. Any questions? Don't worry, they won't get answered. You're tired, scared, lonely (except for all your drunk smelly buddies in the cell with you... Why is that guy frothing at the mouth... Is that other guy taking a sh..... Awww... he is..... on the floor..) They'll take your fingerprints, pictures of you, then put you back in your cell. Again, depending on where you're at will depend on when you see the judge, but normally it'll be sometime the next morning. You'll see the judge, they'll set a bound, and then about 4 hours later, you'll finally be a free person! Yay! Not so yay. You've only just begun. I'll try to summarize this as fast as possible so as not to bore you.
Call 20 lawyers. 10 will overcharge, want thousands of dollars down, and talk about money the moment you get on the phone with them. 3 will scare the living crap out of you making you think you'll never be able to blow a snot rocket on the sidewalk again... unless you hire them. 4 will tell you that there is no way to beat it, but give them $2000.00 dollars and they'll make sure to get you a good deal. Right. 2 will preach to you about the dangers of drunk driving and how you need counseling.... and they also will want $2000.00 down. You'll finally find one who not only seems to care about your case, will give you a good price, a fair payment plan, and make you feel at ease. Again, you're not a criminal, but after the ordeal you just went through, you feel like one.
Next you'll have about 4 court dates. The initial one when you get out of jail. Normally within about 2-4 weeks of your release. If you hire a lawyer you won't have to go to that one, but make sure to hire a lawyer within 15 days of your release, otherwise, your drivers license will be suspended for a period of 90 days if you blew, and 180 days if you didn't. Some states may vary, but this is about the average. Your lawyer will then do an ALR hearing so that you don't lose your license. Then he'll go back to court, try to cut the best deal possible, or get it dismissed. Then, if you decide you want to take it to trial, it'll cost you more. If you're found guilty, or if you plea the case and are convicted of a DWI, then your insurance will go up, you'll pay a fine of about $750-1000.00, be on probation, and do community service, and have to attend a bunch of alcohol related classes. Sometimes, your lawyer can cut other deals, but this is standard practice. A friend of mine received 25 days in jail, which he was able to do on the weekends, no fines, and probation. It all depends on the lawyer and what kind of deal they work out. Oh, and don't forget that other fee of $365.00 just for court costs which is due on the day you are found guilty, not guilty, or plea out.
Oh he's gooooood
Step 7: Things to think about
So here are a few things to think about. One, make sure to get a good lawyer. Call around. Ask questions. Many lawyers don't even ask you during your consultation how long it was from the moment you were arrested to the moment you took your breathalyzer test. This is pertinent, because remember, the breathalyzer 5000 has a .02 variance, and every hour your body processes .05 of alcohol. This is .05 grams of alcohol per blood volume. So, if you blew a .14, take .02 off that right off the bat. Then, if it was an hour later after you were arrested that you blew, then take off another .05. This puts you at .07, and below the legal limit. This is of course, just an argument, but if you go all the way to trial, then you'll be explaining this to a jury 'of your peers'. Sometimes, that's the way to go, as, the prosecutor is a pretty jaded individual normally, and will usually go head hunting every chance he gets.
Step 8: Don't panic....
Just what it says. Don't panic, don't worry. This isn't the end of the world, and you're not the only one who has gotten one of these things before. Shoot, in Texas alone, they convict over 30,000 DWI cases a year. You're not a criminal, you didn't murder anyone. If you're a driver for a company, well, then you might want to think about switching careers :) Other than that, just be calm and cool, everything will work out in the end.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I'll share what I can!