I was stopped by the police (long)

I’m interested in what the dopers think of this incident. Opinions of those with legal or law enforcement background are especially welcome. I’ll tell you up front that everything came out ok and so I’m not looking for free legal advice.
Also, for those of you read this and are concerned that I was driving drunk, I can’t stop you from your opinion. I can only say that I have in the past stopped myself from driving after having too many. On this particular night I truly did not feel my driving would be impaired. In retrospect, I still feel this way.

It was last Thursday. I’m coming home from a school event at a bar when I was stopped two blocks from my apartment. I motioned the the cop that I was pulling into a shopping mall parking lot and he followed me.
The driver and his partner got out of the car. The partner held back behind my car where he remained, watching, during 90% of this. The officer asked to see my license and insurance, which I showed him. He told me I was going 55 in a 40. I honestly don’t believe I was going that fast, but I didn’t argue. I wasn’t paying strict attention to the spedometer but I’d say I was going a bit less than 50.
He never showed me a radar. I didn’t ask. My opinion is that he didn’t precisely know himself anyway.
He told me he smelled alcohol on my breath. I had had 4-5 beers over approximately a 3 hour period. He asked how many drinks I had had. I told him I had 2. Yes, that was a lie. I’m sorry for it. But I’ll somewhat justify it later on. Anyway, he asked me to step out of the car and that’s when the fun began.
Drunk tests! Yay!
This is the first time I had done anything like them. He gave me an eye test where he asked me to follow a pen.
I was asked to recite the alphabet without singing it. I did so slowly, twice, enunciating as much as possible.
I was asked to keep my foot in the air and count slowly until he told me to stop. I got up to 26 without falling before he finally finished that test.
At this point it was around 20 minutes later. I asked him, very respectfully, when he would be done with these tests and could determine for himself whether I was drunk or sober. He said just a few more tests.
I was asked to walk a straight line, pivot, come back. I did so without getting off balance.

The officer said I had a BAC of 1.2 to 1.3. Legal limit is .08. He said that I failed every test. Yup, every single test. “I thought you were drunk from the eye test, but I just wanted to make sure.” At this point he asked me again just how many drinks I had. Suddenly his partner was right up next to him. “Oh great, intimidation.” I thought. I repeated my original answer of two and his partner went back again. He wanted to catch me in a lie.
The end of the story is that he let me off with a warning. No ticket for speeding, no ticket for DUI. I just have to walk home and I’m scot free. Two blocks, no problemo. I thank him and that’s the end of that.

The officer in charge was a complete professional. He explained everything, very courteous during the whole thing, etc. But, I think he was lying. A lot. Through almost all of it.

First off, I sincerely doubt I had a BAC of 1.2. Doing some calculations, I figure the most I could have had is around .08, which is just at the legal limit and it is probably more like .06 or .05. I think he wanted me to think I was at 1.2 to scare me into confessing something which would give him a reason to arrest me.
I also don’t think I failed all the tests. I don’t think I failed ANY of the tests. My belief is that most drunks can’t walk a straight line or balance themselves on one leg for 26 seconds. The cop said, when I asked him, that he was checking for other things while I was doing this. I think that’s also a lie. I think he was just looking to see if I fell and I didn’t.
I think he let me off “with a warning” because there’s no way he could admit he’d just spent 20-30 minutes on a test that I’d passed.
I believe, but certainly cannot ever be sure, that he never even smelled alcohol on my breath. I think he used that as an excuse to get probable cause, get me out of the car, and thus conduct the tests.
Lots of “I thinks.” I don’t KNOW anything for certain. I’m hypothesizing, which is why I want to know from you guys.

I’m not upset about the tests. Hey, he’s just doing his job. I’m not upset about the lying either. I’m not even upset about having to walk home after “passing” the test. I would, however, be upset if he faked his probable cause to get me out of the car.
I am concerned. If I truly had a BAC of 1.2, would he have let me go with a warning? Why would he do that? How do normal stops of this kind play out?

Thanks for reading this long monstrosity and I look forward to your responses.

I think different jurisdictions have different laws. So it depends on your city/state. Probably state. I never had your particular situation, but I did get a written warning from a Florida state trooper for speeding. I was in fact speeding. If you were allowed to walk home instead of drive, I can understand a warning even if you had suspicious levels.

I’ve never heard of an officer guessing a BAC from non-breathalyzer field sobriety tests. Very suspicious. If he honestly thought you were drunk he would have made you take the breathalyzer, and from my experience he would have seen that you failed whether you were drunk or not.

My guess is that he was either trying to scare you, or possibly was killing time while his partner was checking your record. Either that or he thought you were drunk, but didn’t want to bother with booking you.

Well, first of all, you don’t have to fall down to fail. I have watched cops give a few of them outside the bar I worked out, an they look for unsteadines and other signs. Everyone I ever saw fail one, thought they had passed(with the exception of those who flat out fell down).
If he didnt give you a breathilizer, he has no way of knowing what your BAC was. My guess is that you were borderline failing, that he probably couldnt have gotten a conviction, but felt you were not really safe to be driving. He probably told a little bit of a white lie to impress upon you the danger, and to get you not to drive the rest of the night for your own safety. I think you should count yourself lucky.

Well you got off pretty damn lucky Enderw24. I can remember comming home from a pub one night and I was sitting at a redlight, when all of the sudden this stupid lady slams right into the back of my car. Well the cops get there and I give them my license and insurance ect… Then the cops go into the “how many drinks have you had tonight” bit… (sigh) So I tell him, then he makes me do all of his frig’n dog tricks wich I thought I did well on but would you believe this asshole cop took me in anyway? What a fucking prick! When we get to the station I had to take a blow test to see what my b/a count actualy was. It turns out I was exactly at the legal limit enough to charge me for a DWI.

Now I don’t condone drinking and driving, but if that same cop had been folowing me from behind he would have never even given me a second thought. Becuase lets face it my driving was perfectly normal.

bdgr, I KNOW I got lucky. I could have easily received a speeding ticket at a bare minimum. I think he thought I had been punished enough my being stopped for 30 minutes.
If I truly had been over the limit, getting a DUI would have, pardon my American, fucked me big time. But I truly do not believe that I was over the limit and I don’t think I failed the test. Then again, I have no idea what passing means, so I’m not really in a position to say.

Step by step:

If you were speeding he could pull you over. Once he has you he can ignore the speeding when he smells the alcohol. They always smell the alcohol. Smelling alcohol + speeding = probable cause and a good stop. It no longer matters that he pulled you for speeding.

Field sobriety tests: I would refuse to do them, they are only used to add inculpatory evidence, you can never get off by passing one. Why? Because once he smelled the alcohol, he is going to use the old BAC test. I would just say, “officer, just intoxylize[sup]TM[/sup] me, I am not drunk.” (Consult state law before following this advice)

In Florida, for example, you only HAVE TO consent to chemical (here BAC) tests to keep your license. So, why do anything you don’t have to that can only make their case stronger? The BAC test: WTF, he did not do one?! Am I reading that right, he did not do a field BAC?

Without a BAC he has no case, he was probably yanking your crank for fun. Sorry, cops out there, you know it is true. But, he had you for speeding, so no matter how you look at it you caught a major break.

He let you go! Woo-Hoo! Who cares anymore, yank all you want officer! Send him a Christmas card. What usually happens? You go to the station, or van, whatever, for the big Intoxylizer[sup]TM[/sup] 9000 (whatever number they are up to, none of them are warranted, hmmm…)–you blow into the pipe a couple times. You test drunk, face serious criminal charges, and maybe spend a night in jail. (bond, friends, what day it is, discretion, local practice all factor in here).

Bottom line, he may have: lied about the “test results,” been “sending a message,” or he did you a big favor by not intoxilylizing you. Since you don’t really know the answer, and you got no speeding ticket, I would choose the latter and learn from it. Support your local cab drivers!

Damn! pardon my spelling… I forgot to preview…

Maybe this makes up for egregious spelling and punctuation errors.

A few examples of what passing the test is:
[li]The standing on one foot thing:They watch for shakiness. If you are drunk, you will think did fine on this, as you wont notice your wobbleing slightly[/li][li]The follow the pen with the eyes:They watch for your eyes jerking as they follow the pen. You wont know if you fail this one either[/li][li]Walking the straight line: See number one.[/li][li]The Alphabet:The look for letters out of order, speech manerisms, etc.[/li][/list=1]
I’m betting, while you may not have exactly failed these, you probably didnt pass with flying colors. The cops probably figured that even if you were over, you proabably wouldnt be by the time they were able to get you to the breathalizer. So best to slap your wrist a bit and send you on your way, on foot.

A liar cop? I am truly, utterly shocked, such a thing has never happened. :wink:

I live in fear of being pulled over and given a field sobriety test. I have a balance disorder due to some ear problems, if asked to close my eyes and lean my head back, I WILL fall down. And I can’t walk a heel-to-toe straight line even under the best of conditions, I’ll fall over. I’m thinking of writing a description of my condition and keeping it in my wallet, just in case.

The cop could determine your BAC to the nearest tenth of a percent just by doing a field sobriety test? No breathalizer?
He must have been some sort of nano-augmented super-cop.

You guys read correctly. No breathalizer. Maybe it was broken. Maybe he only had one straw left and didn’t want to waste it on me.
I once did take a test for fun because they nabbed a bunch of underage drinkers with me, overage, in the mix.

Anyway, he told me that the tests had been created and calculated to help determine the participant’s BAC within great accuracy, which is why he did so many tests. I nodded. I certainly wasn’t going to laugh and yell “how can you say that with a straight face?”

I’m not surprised he lied. I don’t fault him for that, he’s hoping to trip me up and it’s all part of the game.

I’ve had to do roadside tests before, and I wasn’t arrested either. In fact, the police officer then gave me a ride home in the back of his car, so that was interesting. I think he felt bad about pulling me over on someone else’s felony warrant. :smiley:

On the ride home, he explained that they also give you other instructions at the same time as they tell you to do some tests, I guess to examine your multitasking ability. Thinks like “Don’t do anything until I say go. OK, now, I want you to count backwards from 99 while standing on one leg and holding your index finger to your nose.” And you’ll go ahead and do it, even though he didn’t say go. That kind of thing.

So that may have been what he was talking about when he said he was “checking for other things.”

I do agree that he was lying about being able to tell your BAC so closely, though I suspect experience does help a lot. The cop that stopped me would only say that I was “borderline.”

BAC for driving ‘drunk’ is (depending on jurisdiction ) somewhere between .08 and .10

Having run a correction center, I never saw one more than .28 - and was told that generally speaking anything over about a .40 was comatose, .50 dead sort of thing \

(I take it back - we DID have one that was 1.0, and we charged her w/falsifying a specimin 'cause there weren’t no way a living human delivered that one.)

but, many people misspeak and say "1 point "

anyhow, as to the whole incident, I’ll chime in with the general 'no, they can’t charge you with BAC w/o doing a breath/blood and/or urine test, there just isn’t a way that I’m aware of presently.

other than that, any time you get stopped by the cops and don’t end up w/a ticket, I count as ‘lucky’. My suspcion is that either they saw you leaving the bar, or it was late at night or something and they suspected that anyone out at that time would be drunk (I’ve gotten that twice, but since I was dead ass sober both times, nothing came of it)>

Legal crap out of the way first:

Officer had good cause to pull you over in the first place, the smell of alcohol gave him probable cause to “seize” you (i.e. keep you there 1/2 performing tests), and his lying to you (if he did) is explicitly condoned by various and sundry court decisions. So, the cop played his cards right.

On to more interesting things:

I’m curious, bdgr. Could you tell (or did you learn through experience) when someone who thought they had passed failed, or did you just observe cops hauling away people who thought they had passed? Does that question make sense?


Yep, I could definately tell. They would wobble all over the place, or you could see their eyes jerk when they did the follow the pen test. Then they would be shocked when they found out they failed. I tried this on a freind of mine who was rather plowed, and wanted me to give her keys back(she was drunk enough to fall for the “hey, thats a cool key ring, can I see it?” routine). She thought she had passed, and she was very plowed. When she sobered up, she thanked me.

Back when I did this kind of thing for a living, we called the eye test a “horozontal gaze nystagmus” test. Someone who administered this test a lot could usually estimate blood alcohol level to within 1 or 2 points of what the Intoxilizer reading would be. I personally never got closer than 3 points. Of course, we also factored in information gathered from the other sobriety tests. And, we were taught to never say we detected an odor of alsohol, as it, according to the instructors, is odorless. We detected the “odor of alcoholic beverages”.

Enderw24, you were given the three standardized field sobriety tests. Unfortunately, that website is a bit outdated. Although it may seem strange that the police estimated your alcohol concentration based on the tests, the studies they are based on do correlate test results with alcohol concentrations. These setimates, however, are not admissible in court.
As an aside, these are not pass/fail tests. The officer is looking for certain clues. If an individual shows a certain number of clues, the officer has a reliable indication of whether that individual is intoxicated. An experienced officer operating in an 0.08 state, can rather accurately assess intoxication based on these three tests. For those of you who think that an officer can’t know your alcohol concentration from these tests, you are only partially correct. An officer can reliably estimate your alcohol concentration. Only a scientific instrument can “know” your concentration.

This isn’t remotely a lie. The tests look for physical signs and mental signs. For example, the already mentioned, start only when I tell you to. Also, in the walk and turn, the officer watches to see how many steps you take and how you perform the turn. If intoxicated, you may not follow the instructions well and either take too many steps or turn in an incorrect manner.

I can’t imagine any way that the subject of a horizontal gaze nystagmus test can assess his onw performance on this test.

Beagle, do you defend intoxicated drivers?

This is excellent advice to get a person arrested, and likely convicted. Its also very good advice to make certain that a defense lawyer gets paid a trial fee in the endeavor. Any serious officer will release far more suspected intoxicated drivers than he arrests, but if you aren’t willing to give the officer something to work with, he won’t work with you.

yes, consult state law. In my state, this statement is begging the officer to take you to jail, because that’s the only place you can find an intoxilyzer.
About intoxilyzers,

Do you really think that they won’t replace or repair broken parts, or are you attempting to mislead people through conflating too different aspects of law to somehow try to discredit these instruments? Again, in my parts, Intoxilyzers are custom made instruments maintained by people with some serious backgrounds in keeping these critters working. What the instruments lack are standard warranties, with their standard disclaimers.

He can say it with a straight face because it is true. The studies are validated to correlate the number of clues on the tests with alcohol concentrations. But, again, unless we get the professors who performed the study, estimates of alcholo concentration aren’t admissible.

Despite what I’ve been writting, wring is right:

They won’t charge an alcohol concentration definition of intoxicated without a chemical test. By the bye, the highest alcohol concentration I’ve seen was a 0.44. Long time drunk who’d been hospitalized many times for drinking anything he could if he couldn’t get ethanol.

Enderw24, I can’t really speak to how the officer acted. But, consider that if you were really close to home and polite with the officer, he might have preferred to let you walk home than make matters worse. This is susceptible to two interpretations: 1. he was a jerk to pull you over and didn’t want to compound his problem by arresting a not intoxicated person, or 2. you were intoxicated (which isn’t the same as drunk), but he wasn’t enough of a jerk to screw up you life that bad, when he could let you walk home and still get an intoxicated driver separated from his car.

I actually saw one come into the psych hospital I worked at that was a 0.6x or so(I dont remember the specifics). It was an attempted suicide, and they didnt expect him to live. The medical hospital stabilized him, and them sent him to us(we were a psych hospital that had some med facilities). I was on strict one on one observation with this guy for about a week. Wierd thing is, he woke up the next morning confused but seemingly ok. For a solid week, I would show up to work, relieve who-ever was with him, and go shoot pool with him in the rec room till I went home. Nice enough guy, just got despondent over his marriage breaking up. He was pretty big guy, but I dont know how he survived that high of a BAC. But thats what the docs and his chart said anyway. Everybody was pretty suprised about it.