Many Massachusetts residents like to have an alcoholic beverage now and then. Many individuals may use getting a drink after work or on the weekend as an excuse to catch up with friends or to otherwise unwind. Of course, you should always drink responsibly and never drink and drive.
Only you can decide whether you should get behind the wheel of a vehicle after consuming alcohol. You may have only had one drink and feel fine to drive. You may not think that one drink would even cause any problems if a police officer pulled you over. Unfortunately, situations can arise in which officers charge sober drivers with DUI.
How does this happen?
Often, police officers use various test methods to determine whether a driver may be intoxicated. One testing method involves field sobriety tests, of which there are three, including:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus
- One-leg stand
- Walk and turn
These tests, theoretically, allow officers to assess your eye movement, balance and coordination, all of which could suffer due to alcohol impairment. However, circumstances aside from alcohol consumption could affect the outcomes of these tests as well.
It is not unusual for some people, possibly you included, to have naturally bad balance. If you attempt to stand on one leg but end up swaying or using your arms to balance, an officer may take that as a sign of intoxication. In reality, you may simply not have good balance. Additionally, if the officer is conducting the tests on an uneven surface, in the dark, next to a busy highway or under other distracting circumstances, the environment could affect the outcomes of the tests as well.
You might think that an officer would take these elements into consideration when using these tests to determine possible intoxication, but that is likely not the case. The officer may simply see you stumble or get distracted and assume that the cause is intoxication. As a result, even if you are sober, you could still end up under arrest for DUI.
What can you do?
If an officer uses the outcomes of field sobriety tests as probable cause to take you into custody, you will want to remember as much about the environment and the tests as possible. You may be able to use the harsh circumstances under which you performed the tests to negate the reliability of the field sobriety tests, which could mean that the officer did not have probable cause to arrest you.