I was stopped by the police (long)

Is it standard in USA that you have to perform like a monkey for the police everytime they have a feeling you are breaking the law?
Maybe I am watching too many “reality TV Cops show” but the tests seem to be a bit old.
In Australia (please do not look at this as a my dads bigger than your dad type phrase) but we have booze buses and they are a mobile van set up on major highways in random spots and they pull over drivers and we have a breath test, also all other police cars in Aust carry them and it take about 5 seconds, then if you are fine they send you on your way if not the sit you down and then they may perform other tests. it seems to me that it is a lot of time wasted.
Also there is a strange loop hole law here which I am not certain is also in USA, but you said that you parked in a shopping mall and got out of your car, well here they can not charge you for certain laws on private property, speeding is different but if you are out of your car and on private property they can not charge you with drink driving, and I am pretty sure they are not actually allowed to Breath test you either, which may be the reason why they did not. I think the parking on private property and getting out of you car may have played a factor as there are tricky laws surrounding those areas, they may have just wanted to give you a bit of a scare because that is as far as the law would permit.
But who knows - its not worth risking yours or anyone elses life by speeding or drinking (but you know this so I dont want to lecture, but look at the road statistics and compare them to deaths like drug overdoses and murder and the figures are shocking)

I bet you arrest and testify against drunk drivers for a living. If you do a FST there little good that can come from it. The police only do it if they already have probable cause (always smell or empties) to do a BAC. The only advantage to doing a FST is if you know you are right around the limit. It kills time before you have to do a BAC. I know you sometimes can be let go (OP), not doubting that, but if you are intoxicated FSTs never help. “Get someone convicted,” how? I repeat, get someone “convicted,” how? Without a BAC over the limit you are not, I repeat, are not going to get convicted.

“Get paid a trial fee,” spoken like a police officer. Yeah, “work with you,” I can see your shield from here. Like I said, if your state requires FSTs then by all means hang yourself, you have no choice anyway. Please give me a cite on all the intoxicated drivers being released. That is absolutely not the case. Maybe if they pull over another police officer, then yes, they may release him even if he blows a .20.

Sorry, I believe in making the police collect actual evidence to do their job. I don’t believe in helping the police by having someone fall down while doing a FST on a slope, near traffic, or in the wind. A failed FST on video can be a bad test but it can get you convicted in borderline cases anyway.

The people who administer the Intoxilyzer are sometimes qualified, often clueless morons. As for the warranty, it is true isn’t it? Disclaimers, like no warranty at all. :rolleyes: Sorry officer, I’ll move my car out of the fire lane now…

Yes, or they shoot you.

Well…if they follow you into the private lot off a public street, the can still bust you for DWI. If you are on the private lot and get out of your car, they can bust you for public intoxication. If a cop wants to take you to jail, your pretty much gonna go to jail. You may not get convicted, but theres still the hassle.

Well, first off, officeslave, I know you’re trying to agree with me, but I have a very strong suspicion you’re quite incorrect in your information. Or at least misapplying it in this case.
If I was driving drunk, then I was driving drunk. It makes no difference if I stop on the highway, a parking lot, my own driveway, or next to the steps of the Pope’s house, I was driving drunk. I can’t shoot someone and then run into my house and yell “ha ha! you need a warrant!”

Now, as to whether I was driving drunk, I think that’s in dispute. I was certainly intoxicated, but I’m almost positive there’s no way I was at .12 like the officer claimed. I’ve checked out some websites online, played with the numbers, and come up with anywhere between .09 (above the legal limit) and .05 (well below the legal limit).
It scares me to think that I may actually have been driving above the limit. I have stopped myself from driving in the past, I’ve had others hold onto my keys at parties, and last Thursday I truly felt OK to drive home.

Anyway, as for the cop’s attitude, I thought he was fine. He certainly had reason to stop me. He may have had reason to get me out of the car (whether he lied about my breath or not I’ll never know). He conducted the tests professionally and explained things carefully. I even shook his hand when it was over with. I consider myself very fortunate he dropped the entire thing and let me go with a warning. He easily could have given me a speeding ticket.

Robb, I wasn’t saying that I passed all the tests, just that I had a hard time believing I failed them all.

I have an optician friend (used to work under an optometrist) who told me that the nystagmus test is BS–that there are many things (other than intoxication) that can cause you to fail. For one thing, I remember him saying that simple lack of sleep can cause it. Also, I believe it is a constant affliction for some people.

Yeah, thats why they usually use a breathalizer to back it up.

I don’t understand why they bother with all the fuss of those sobriety tests in the US, why not just breathalyse and be done with it?

Because most cop cars dont have them. Its all about the expense. Most of the time, they do the Field test, if they think they need to, they take them back to the station for a brethalizer. To do a breathalizer right, you have to obeserve the person for a period of time before they blow through it, etc, and it is best to have it on video. Just not always practical in the field.

My question would have been the same as that asked by Mangetout, but instead I will say that I have been stopped by mobile police units on seven occasions over a period of maybe twenty years.

On two of these occasions I had been drinking, but not to excess. A rule of thumb in the UK is that, for example, two pints of medium strength beer will not result in a red light showing on the breathaliser kit.

The first time this happened the police radioed their home station and a breathaliser unit was brought out to the scene by another vehicle. In the second case the apprehending car carried a unit itself.

Both tests resulted in an orange light, which indicates that alcohol has been consumed, but to a safe level, and I was allowed to depart from the scene in my car.

On four of the five occasions where I was not breathalised there was no sign of alcohol on my breath and I was allowed to continue on my way.

No reason was given in any of these cases as to why I was stopped in the first place, but I never queried the matter since I was always confident that I had not broken the law.

On the fifth occasion I was rightly convicted for a speeding offence and enjoyed a two week holiday from driving.

It is all but certain that, in the UK anyway, if a police officer detects alcohol on your breath you will be asked to blow into the bag.

IIRC The UK police have to have ‘reason to suspect’ that you have been drinking.

I’ve only been breath tested once just before Christmas a couple of years back; I was leaving a large leisure complex in my car and was pulled over for exceeding the speed limit.
The officer asked if I had been drinking, I had (two pints of ordinary lager over the course of the evening), when I told him yes, he said I would have to take the test (it was clear he was reciting a script), we had to wait for 15 minutes, since I had only finished my second drink a few moments before leaving.
He instructed me carefully on how the machine worked and what I would have to do, I blew into the (sterile, disposable) mouthpiece and the orange light came on, indicating I’d been drinking but was below the limit.
He told me that no action would be taken about the speeding, wished me a safe journey home and that was it.

Personally, I’ve got no issue with random breath testing (where they can stop you even if you haven’t done anything obviously wrong) - if you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.

You are correct, Mangetout, that according to the letter of the law, the police require reason to suspect before stopping a motorist.

In practice it does not work in this way. If you test positive the police will use their imagination, and say that you were driving erratically, or something like that, which they will not charge you with, because they have you bang to rights on a more serious charge.

Like yourself, I have no problem with random testing.

I feel obliged to interject a short anecdote.

At the end of December in 1996, I was in Copenhagen for a two-week vacation. Several Danish friends of mine decided to impress upon me the fine quality of Julebryg, their Christmas beer. After two, I decided to visit the loo, and noticed a breathalyzer on the way. The fine print indicated that a drink within the past ten minutes would skew the results.

“This,” I thought, “needs to be tested for the good of science.”

I returned to the group, finished another drink, and dashed back to the machine. Took out a straw, plunked down my five kroner, blew into it, and heard in a stuttering mechanical voice, “Your … blood alcohol … level … is one … point … eight five percent! You’d … better … slow down!”

I recalled that .4 and .5 is rather lethal, and 1.85 would probably be just as (if not more) lethal. Figuring that I was going to die shortly, I went back to celebrating New Year’s Eve.

Anyway, as we all know, the best way to deal with the police when they stop you (for whatever reason) is to ask “Why don’t you go catch some real criminals, huh?”, apparently if you do this, they will let you go.

Beagle, can we put $20 on this?

I am not a peace officer and I’ve never testified. Could you just put the $20 in your computer’s floppy disk slot and e-mail it to me, I could use the money. :slight_smile:

For what I’m about to write, I only have anecdotes, no cites. You ask,

To begin with, I can find you quite a number of convicted DWI defendants who can unfortunately attest that you can get convicted without a known alcohol concentration. Indeed, in my experience, very few DWI refusals (we call them, meaning refusing a chemical test) escape conviction. YMMV.

I realize this is weak for Straight Dope purposes, but I can’t imagine law enforcement is going to help with such a study, so I’m stuck with anecdotes. My guess is it happens rarely at best.

I think that any officer who takes his job seriously won’t even try the tests if this may happen.

Though, good answer to OFFICESLAVE.


Sorry, I didn’t give you all the information that you need. I say that these tests are not pass/fail, but that they show signs of intoxication, I’ll explain below. I’m going to leave out the eye test, because you can’t self-assess this test.

On the Walk and Turn test, the officer looks for the following signs:
[li] Can’t balance during the instructional stage.[/li][li] Starts test too soon.[/li][li] Stops while walking.[/li][li] Does not touch heel to toe.[/li][li] Steps off the line.[/li][li] Uses arms for balance.[/li][li] Improper turn (looses balance during turn).[/li][li] Wrong number of steps.[/li]This is what I meant when I said the officer was looking for more than one thing. If you exhibited two or more of these signs, the officer would think you were intoxicated.

On the One Leg Stand Test, the officer looks for the following signs:
[li] Sways while balancing.[/li][li] Uses arms to balance.[/li][li] Hops.[/li][li] Put foot down.[/li]In this test, if you showed two or more signs, the officer would suspect you were intoxicated. Also, on this test, when properly performed, the officer should have the person hold there foot up for 30 seconds, not until the person counts to 30. Strangely, a study has shown that an intoxicated person can do OK holding his foot up until 25 seconds, but become likely to put the foot down after 25 seconds.

So, ** Enderw24**, go back through your recollection of that night and try to assess your performance in light of these “clues.” These are what the officer should have been looking for. Please don’t think that I am telling you how you did, I’m just trying to supply the framework that was used on you. If you have any questions about what I wrote, I will do my best to answer them.
Now, when I say not pass/fail, I mean that they are information gathering devices. Whether we call them pass/fail is a daily semantic battle in the DWI business, and I don’t want to start it here. But, I think that it is a useful way to describe it in explaining the purpose of the test - which is evaluating whether a person is intoxicated. As an aside, when these tests go wrong (if correctly administered and evaluated), they incorrectly identify intoxicated drivers as not intoxicated.

Yesterday I was not able to find a cite to this on-line, except that I can show you where the government sells a book that contains this information.

Yesterday I referred to validation studies, and I managed to find one here.

To those of you outwith the US. Police in the US do have portable breath tests available to them. As far as I know, the results of those tests are inadmissible in court, therefore, the police need to find admissible evidence of intoxication.

Ino, the reason the breath tester has instructions to wait is that alcohol in the mouth will skew the results, as you learned.

Thanks Robb for that information. Looking back on it, there were probably a few things I could have done differently had I been sober. I would have said the alphabet faster for one. I wanted to show him I could enunciate, but I realized afterwards that I was going too slow.
I never did lose my balance on any of the tests. I really don’t think I swayed, but that’s not for me to answer. I didn’t start the tests early ever. I even asked him a few questions to make sure I would be doing it correctly. I did put my foot down once during the counting, but that was on purpose. I thought he told me to go up to number X, not to keep going until he said stop.
Anyway, it was an interesting experience. I actually thought it was kinda fun (the whole felony conviction looming over me notwithstanding). Hey, the only thing I was doing was going home to go to bed and I wasn’t that tired anyway.

Not to sidetrack this into the 4th amendment but…

I completely disagree. If the police have reasonable cause to pull me over, then fine. Let them do their jobs. But your rationale “if you’re innocent, you have nothing to hide” is EXACTLY the reason I disagree with you. These laws are created to protect the innocent. If the innocent refuse to use them, it defeats the whole purpose of us having rights in the first place.

I seem to recall the instructions also said that a recent cigarette would skew the results – why is this so? Or am I misremembering the event (as anyone would with a 1.85%…)?

Ino, unfortunately, I don’t know why cigarettes would make a difference. I’m accustomed to dealing with Intoxilyzers kept by the state. By the time anyone ever gets to one, they’ve already been stopped by the police, transported to jail, and then they wait at least another 15 minutes. In my experience, the police don’t tend to let people smoke.
One of the rules is that a person taking an intoxilyzer must not have anything in his mouth, nor had anything in it for at least 15 minutes. In your 1.85% scenario, you probably still had alcohol in your mouth when you took the test, but it wouldn’t be fair to say this alcohol was in your breath. My guess about cigarettes (and its only a guess), is that it might alter the testers ability to take a reading. Your question requires a greater knowledge of breath testing than I possess.

Sorry Enderw24, I’m replying out of order. I’m not sure what you should learn from your evening, though I prefered it when I lived close enough to pubs to walk. I’m sure that field sobriety tests seem a great deal like a game, but there is a reason behind them. Whether its good for the person suspected of drinking is something Beagle and I can argue about for a while more. Just remember, if an officer asks for you to act like a duck or a chicken he is jacking with you.

where i live, these are the last words you say just prior to the officers “finding” an ounce of marijuana somewhere on your person or vehicle…

Ender, I’m really glad there were no more serious repercussions. Also, and please don’t take this wrong but, learn from it. Think of it as a little gift that might keep you from making a bigger mistake later.

Nearing graduation many years back, I’d been partying with friends out at the lake all day. As I drove home I got sleepy and pulled over to nap. Maybe an hour or two later the was a knock at my car window. I awoke to see two cops with flashlights peering in. That’ll sober you up quick.

I stepped out and they began the usual questions…

Mr. lieu, Where do you live?
About a mile further up the road.

Mr. lieu, have you had anything to drink?
Yes sir.

Mr. lieu, how many would you say you’ve had?
lieu rubs chin contemplatively
Oh about 20 or 21.

silence, then a snicker
How is it, Mr. lieu, that you can drink 20 or 21 beers and still drive?
*rubs chin again"

They lost it. His partner doubled over and staggered back to the car. I think they were totally shocked that someone had actually told them the truth and were appreciative of the fact that if I’d had too much that I would pull over.

Mr. lieu, when you’re ready continue your trip and be careful.
Yes sir, I sure will.

True story, swear to goodness. I’ve not driven drunk since.