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  • Drunk Driving and Sobriety Tests

    DUI, DWI, OUI, OWI, OMVI, are some of the acronyms I have heard for drunk drivers. What are the differences between them? Do some refer to drugs rather then alcohol? What is a "wet reckless"? Is there a difference between being "under the influence" and being "impaired"?

    I have seen several roadside sobriety tests: one leg stand, walk and turn, fingertip touch, ABCs, follow the pen, touch the nose, counting backwards, etc. It seems like some officers do different combinations of these tests, are they looking for something specific? Do some tests determine alcohol and other tests determine drug use? Does a person's age and/or body size make a difference in what sobriety tests they will be asked to perform?

    I don't drink a lot, so I think if I had five drinks I would not be able to drive very well, but I don't know if it would put me over the legal limit of .08. Can a person be arrested for driving with a .06 limit if they are driving poorly? Is that where "impaired" comes into play? How do officers handle someone who refuses to do any test at all?

    The drunk driving laws seem to get stiffer each year (as they well should), do officers have discretion in arresting someone that is "over the legal limit"? Do you let them call a friend or a tow truck to take them home safely?

    The reason I ask all the questions is because Saturday night I sat for 15 minutes or more at a roadside checkpoint and watched car after car get pulled out and the driver had to perform sobriety tests. I saw two people get arrested. It was interesting to watch, but I sure was glad I had not been drinking. I was amazed at the number of people I was sharing the road with who had been drinking. Again, thank you for your time.
    When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me."

  • #2
    The sobriety tests differ from officer to officer because of the training they receive. All they use it for is to determine if someone has been drinking. The two ways to determine BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) is the blood test or the intoxilyzer. In Oklahoma .06-.07 is DWI (driving while impaired) and .08 or more is DUI (driving under the influence). As far as letting someone pick them up....our policy is that if the officer feels they are intoxicated they get detained until the test is performed. I have never let someone pick up somebody up if I feel they have had too much to drink. Mostly because we have a zero tolerence for driving drunk. If they refuse the test then they are still arrested and a refusal is done on the intoxilyzer. This is to cover your ***** on anything. If I feel that someone is under the influence of drugs then I take them to the hospital to have blood drawn. they are still arrested for DUI drugs and if the test comes back negative then all charges are dismissed. As far at the sobriety test goes I usually use the nystigmas test, walk and turn and one legged stand. If someone has a medical problem with their legs then I would choose a different test. I hope this answers most of your questions.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by TeachMe View Post
      DUI, DWI, OUI, OWI, OMVI, are some of the acronyms I have heard for drunk drivers.
      Pretty much just differences in state jargon. They all pretty much refer to the same thing.

      Originally posted by TeachMe View Post
      What are the differences between them? Do some refer to drugs rather then alcohol?
      Here we use OWI (Operating While Intoxicated); PAC (Prohibited Alcohol Concentration); and PCS (Prohibited Controlled Substance). Other states use different acronyms for the same things.
      Originally posted by TeachMe View Post
      What is a "wet reckless"?
      Around here that would be a plea deal where the driver pleads to a reckless driving offense and a implied consent offense. It goes on their record as a reckless so it doesn't carry the full negative impact of a drunk driving conviction. The implied consent violation counts as a prior offense if they do it again. This is only offered on first offenses with some kind of extenuating circumstance.

      Originally posted by TeachMe View Post
      Is there a difference between being "under the influence" and being "impaired"?
      Not really. Its another terminology issue. In some places you can be under the influence (over .08) and not be impaired.

      Originally posted by TeachMe View Post
      I have seen several roadside sobriety tests: one leg stand, walk and turn, fingertip touch, ABCs, follow the pen, touch the nose, counting backwards, etc. It seems like some officers do different combinations of these tests, are they looking for something specific?
      There is a standardized battery of tests (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, Walk & Turn, and One Leg Stand) that is scientifically proven to be a strong indicator of impairment. When using the standard battery, there are specific clues that officer is looking. Some of the other tests (ABC's, Nose Touch, etc) are non-standardized but can provide additional clues of impairment. An officer should be doing the standard battery each time and then adding additional tests as they desire.

      If the driver is suspected of being under the influence of a controlled substance, there is an additional battery of tests called a DRE evaluation. That is very technical and only a small percentage of officers are trained to that standard.

      Originally posted by TeachMe View Post
      Does a person's age and/or body size make a difference in what sobriety tests they will be asked to perform?
      Not really. There is some anecdotal evidence that the very obese do not perform well on balance tests.

      Originally posted by TeachMe View Post
      I don't drink a lot, so I think if I had five drinks I would not be able to drive very well, but I don't know if it would put me over the legal limit of .08. Can a person be arrested for driving with a .06 limit if they are driving poorly?
      Five drinks would almost definitely put you over the .08 limit. If a person is showing significant impairment, they can be arrested at below the .08 threshold. The .08 BAC is called the prima facie evidence of drunk driving. Even if you showed no signs of impairment but your blood alcohol level is over .08, you're considered to be impaired.
      Is that where "impaired" comes into play? How do officers handle someone who refuses to do any test at all?

      Originally posted by TeachMe View Post
      The drunk driving laws seem to get stiffer each year (as they well should), do officers have discretion in arresting someone that is "over the legal limit"? Do you let them call a friend or a tow truck to take them home safely?
      There is some discretion but that discretion is getting more and more limited. Just remember, that the one time a person gets caught driving drunk is usually one of a dozens of times they've done it before.

      Originally posted by TeachMe View Post
      The reason I ask all the questions is because Saturday night I sat for 15 minutes or more at a roadside checkpoint and watched car after car get pulled out and the driver had to perform sobriety tests. I saw two people get arrested. It was interesting to watch, but I sure was glad I had not been drinking. I was amazed at the number of people I was sharing the road with who had been drinking. Again, thank you for your time.
      The average driver has NO idea who's sharing their road with them. Between 11:00pm and 3:00am, as many as 1 in 3 drivers could be impaired.
      Originally posted by kontemplerande
      Without Germany, you would not have won World War 2.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by TeachMe View Post
        How do officers handle someone who refuses to do any test at all?

        The drunk driving laws seem to get stiffer each year (as they well should), do officers have discretion in arresting someone that is "over the legal limit"? Do you let them call a friend or a tow truck to take them home safely?
        SRT answered the other questions, just my two cents on these.

        If someone refuses every test, I just have to rely on other clues. Such as their driving, slurred speech, walking, any statements made, ect. I've sailed plenty of drunk driving cases through if they refuse everything. An officer just has to take good notes and write a good report. Plus the person who refuses everything is probably going to have an additional charge of refusing a PBT (a crime in my state) and their license is going to be suspended for longer than the person who cooperated.

        As for discretion. My department doesn't have a specific policy on whether or not we have to arrest a drunk driver. But I imagine the brass would be a bit irked if we were letting drunks go without a good reason.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by TeachMe View Post

          I don't drink a lot, so I think if I had five drinks I would not be able to drive very well, but I don't know if it would put me over the legal limit of .08.
          Keep in mind, most states have a 'limit' of .08 BrAC but that doesn't mean you're in the clear if you're below that. In my state .08 is the level of presumed intoxication; that means that no matter how coordinated you are you're considered drunk over that line. However, .04 is the level of presumed sobriety. That means you can still get arrested for DUI if you're under .08 (but over .04).

          A lot of drunk drivers get arrested when they come back down. If you drink to say, .12 you're going to be feeling pretty good when you pass .08 the first time. However, if you let some time go by without drinking and go back down to .08 you're going to feel sober but you'll still be intoxicated.

          The rule of thumb is: don't drink and drive. It's not worth trying for the 'line'.

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          • #6
            SRT covered it really well. I'll just add that in my state anything over .04 when combined with driving behavior can show impairment. .08 is just the point you don't need driving behaviors as necessary to the conviction (outside of stopping charge if not at a checkpoint).

            Also, there are different tests for narcotics as opposed to alcohol. There is overlap, but some are pretty specific to narcotics. I'm pretty well trained in alcohol detection but only have the bare basics of narcotics testing. There are DRE (Drug Recognition Expert) officers who can perform all of those tests, though.
            I miss you, Dave.
            http://www.odmp.org/officer/20669-of...david-s.-moore

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            • #7
              Thanks so much for your replies. I'm thinking it would be easier if every state just used the same jargon. Life is confusing enough.

              I have heard (or read) that drunk driving is the most common crime in America and drunk drivers kill more people then all other crimes combined. I have also read on this form about how long it takes an officer to process a drunk driver - something like 2 hours for each one. Why does it take so long? I would think if the police have video of the driver not being able to do the sobriety test and they blow .08 or higher it should be a slam dunk.... case closed...here is your punishment...end of story.
              When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me."

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              • #8
                It's because DUI is a socially acceptable crime. Politicians, movies stars, etc all have DUI's. Around here absent an accident people think it's a victimless crime. Furthermore, people think driving is a right and not a priviledge and get all butt-hurt when something comes between them and their car.

                I can process a drunk in roughly an hour if they agree right away to take the intox test or refuse. The paper work required:

                1. Advice of Rights to the Intox Test
                2. State DMV form outlining incident and temporary license issue
                3. Citations (1 per offense)
                4. DUI folder/cover sheet
                5. Court Form
                6. 3 page agency report on DUI/DWI

                Yes it's a lot, but when the $500 an hour defense attorney starts asking you questions you need as much as possible documented. I have an in-car camera which makes most of my cases pretty cut-and-dry. They still try to argue the testing though.

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                • #9
                  ^^^^^^^^
                  Wow, 1 hour? I wish.

                  If I did them often, I can see a regular DWI in maybe 1hr 45 min. But I don't do them too often, maybe 6 or 8 a year. And the paperwork is such that I have to double-check myself on everything since it's so much more than a regular arrest. Not hard, just easy to mess up if you're not careful.

                  OP, in Texas we only have DWI and DUI. DUI is for under-21 with ANY detectable amount of alcohol in their system. It's a lower charge and if the minor is over .08, you should charge DWI anyway.

                  If I had 5 drinks, I would be flat on the floor! That's well over .08 unless you're the Hulk, and I'd be unsafe to drive after 2 drinks. In reality, I won't drive after any alcohol. I like my career.

                  Finally, TX statute defines "intoxicated" to include alcohol, drugs, or any other substance. So it's pretty inclusionary:

                  (2) "Intoxicated" means:

                  (A) not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol , a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or

                  (B) having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.
                  If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.

                  ---Jack Handey

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by School Cop View Post
                    If I had 5 drinks, I would be flat on the floor! That's well over .08 unless you're the Hulk, and I'd be unsafe to drive after 2 drinks. In reality, I won't drive after any alcohol. I like my career.
                    When I said five drinks, I was thinking over the course of an evening, maybe 4 hours...not five drinks in an hours or so. But, like School Cop, I won't drive after any alcohol. I don't think the Board of Education takes to kindly to a DUI, but I don't know if one can be fired for it, unless it falls under "conduct unbecoming". It's pretty hard these days to fire a teacher. I've only known two teachers that were out-right fired, one for having sex with a student and the other because her live in boyfriend was dealing drugs and making meth in her house.
                    When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by School Cop View Post
                      If I had 5 drinks, I would be flat on the floor! That's well over .08 unless you're the Hulk, and I'd be unsafe to drive after 2 drinks. In reality, I won't drive after any alcohol. I like my career.
                      Well over .08? I'd say just barely, depending on the person. Being in the 220 pound range, I'd say if I drank 5 beers over the course of 2 hours, I'd be hovering around .08. Luckily my drinking hole is within walking distance, so such things don't concern me in my personal life

                      Quite honestly, if I had 5 (and only 5 beers) over the course of a 3-4 hour session of being out with buddies, I'd feel fine driving home.
                      Last edited by Dingo990; 03-31-2011, 03:48 AM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Dingo990 View Post
                        Well over .08? I'd say just barely, depending on the person. Being in the 220 pound range, I'd say if I drank 5 beers over the course of 2 hours, I'd be hovering around .08. Luckily my drinking hole is within walking distance, so such things don't concern me in my personal life

                        Quite honestly, if I had 5 (and only 5 beers) over the course of a 3-4 hour session of being out with buddies, I'd feel fine driving home.
                        Well, maybe I'm different than most people. And I've never PBT'd myself after drinking! But I know 5 beers in 3 hours and I'm weaving when I walk. And I'm 190 lbs. But I go over 1 beer maybe once a year, so I have no tolerance. And my drinking hole is my living room, b/c beer at a bar is way too expensive for a cheapskate like me.

                        Edit to add: I'm sure you're right about the level; I can't ever remember how many drinks over how long equals what BAC.
                        If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.

                        ---Jack Handey

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by careerchange#2 View Post
                          It's because DUI is a socially acceptable crime. Politicians, movies stars, etc all have DUI's.
                          Plus since people with cash for high dollar lawyers get DUIs, incredibly stupid arguments are presented to the court to justify the attorney's expense. Things like trying to subpeona the guy who MANUFACTURED the needle used in the blood draw. Case law gets created, forms and SOPS expand to include the changes, and it all becomes a laywer's ball of complex nonsense.

                          You can set a bus full of nuns on fire and generate less paperwork for the reporting officer than for the least of DUIs.
                          I miss you, Dave.
                          http://www.odmp.org/officer/20669-of...david-s.-moore

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                          • #14
                            I'm curious about some of this stuff too. AFAIK, in most states, you don't lose your license under implied consent for refusing field sobriety tests, but do lose it for refusal of a blood or breath test. Why don't all LEO's just carry a breathalyzer in their car then? Why play the field sobriety test game when you can just get their BAC right then and there with a breathalyzer? I'd definitely refuse a field sobriety test, but I know I'd lose my license for refusing a breathalyzer, so I'd go along with that.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by TeachMe View Post
                              The drunk driving laws seem to get stiffer each year (as they well should), do officers have discretion in arresting someone that is "over the legal limit"? Do you let them call a friend or a tow truck to take them home safely?
                              There is too much liability in handing someone over to a friend. There is actually a case of someone being released to a friend by police, that person ended up in a car wreck and killing someone else. Police can be held liable if they release a drunk driver and they later get into a deadly accident. The victims family could file suit for wrongful death, which most cities usually settle without trying to fight the allegations.


                              http://www.dui.com/dui-library/dui-shorts
                              http://www.totallawyers.com/legal-ar...ui-lawsuit.asp
                              Last edited by GIOSTORMUSNRET; 04-01-2011, 08:04 AM.
                              GOD IS A NINJA WITH A SNIPER RIFLE, WAITING TO TAKE YOU OUT.

                              "For weapons training they told me to play DOOM"

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