DWI Defense Lawyer
If you or someone you know has been detained for a DWI offense in Duval County, your first step should be to call a criminal defense attorney . The Dick Law Firm has been aggressively defending DWI cases in Jacksonville for more than 10 years.
What Happens if I’m Stopped for DWI?
You can be a suspect for driving while intoxicated (or impaired) even if you were stopped for an unrelated reason. The majority of DWI charges stem from minor traffic violations. The legal limit for intoxication is 0.08 % blood alcohol concentration, but if you are under the age of 21 it is unlawful to drive after consuming any detectable amount of alcohol.
For a police officer to pull you over in your car he must have reasonable suspicion in order to instigate a temporary detention. By law, the officer should inform you of the reason you are being stopped, but this doesn’t always happen. Common reasons for a traffic stop are speeding, erratic or dangerous driving, erratic driving reported by witness, violating traffic laws and equipment violations. Equipment violations can be broad in scope and include obvious things like having a tail light out. Less obvious ones include inoperable license plate lamp and a window tint that looks too dark.
Legal Detention for DWI Suspicion
Once the driver has been legally detained, the police officer will ask for license and insurance. The police officer is more interested in evaluating the driver’s demeanor during this exchange than reviewing the documents. The officer will be actively observing the driver, passengers and the interior of the vehicle for any signs of alcohol or marijuana. During his conversation with the driver he will look for any suggestion that the driver is under the influence of any substance. He may ask if the driver has been drinking and if so how much. If the driver admits to drinking the driver will be normally be asked to exit his car and perform a standardized field sobriety test (SFST).
Field Sobriety Test
The three standardized field sobriety tests are:
The HGN (horizontal gaze nystagmus) – You will be asked to follow a moving pen or light with your eyes. This requires the officer to be able to identify natural eye movements and compare the subject’s results with standard results. This test has been proven to be unreliable as an indication of sobriety in many cases. The test is premised on the idea that eyes have a natural shaking action, or nystagmus. If you are intoxicated, the shakiness is visually evident from your eye movements, and the officer is able to discern the nystagmus.
The Walk and Turn – You will be asked to walk heel to toe in opposite directions. You must be able to count, turn and walk without showing signs of intoxication. The results of this test may be flawed due to the subjects balance problems and confusion with the instructions.
The One Leg Stand – You will be asked to stand on one leg while keeping the other leg more than 6 inches off the ground while counting to 30. Again, the results of this test can be flawed due to balance problems with the subject. Many people do not have the ability to do this completely sober.
At the end of these tests the officer will make a determination whether or not he believes the driver is intoxicated and will make an arrest if, in his determination, the driver is intoxicated. The officer has to have “probable cause” at the point at which he actually arrests the driver.
He will then read the driver a DIC-24 form that asks the defendant for a breath sample. The warning advises that a refusal will result in a driver’s license suspension of 180 days and a breath test failure (over .08%) results in a suspension for 90 days. You should understand that the police will not ask for a breath test until a person is under arrest.
If the driver has not been drinking and especially if the driver’s license shows he is from out of town, he will start to question the driver’s recent activity in the area and what his future plans involve. If there is a passenger, the officer will question them separately to compare their stories. Any inconsistencies will suggest to the officer that they are engaged in the transport of narcotics or money from narcotics sales. If he suspects that there are illegal drugs in the vehicle he will be looking for the driver’s consent to submit to a search of the vehicle or establish probable cause to search the vehicle.
Call a DWI Lawyer
The arrest and conviction of driving while impaired is a very complicated process and involves a necessary sequence of events, any and all of which can be challenged in court. The most important step you can make in this process is to call a DWI lawyer as soon as possible. The Dick Law Firm offers free consultation of your case.