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Field Sobriety Tests-Perform Them or Refuse?

Posted Thursday, December 14, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

“Would you mind performing some voluntary field sobriety tests to make sure you are okay to drive?”

This question is the most inaccurate and disingenuous request an officer can make in a DUI investigation. The reason is that these roadside “field sobriety tests” are administered for one purpose….to gather evidence against you in building a DUI case. These tests have little to do with making sure one is safe to drive. Rather, it’s all about gathering evidence against you. These roadside exercises are extremely difficult to perform regardless of how much alcohol you have consumed. Add to the fact you are nervous from being pulled over and standing alongside a highway with an officer staring at you with a flashlight. In other words, It’s just as easy for a sober driver to fail as an impaired driver.

Despite what police officers may attempt to make you believe, you’re not required by Washington law to submit to a field sobriety test.

What Are Field Sobriety Tests?

Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are nationally recognized tests designed to help law enforcement officers identify drivers suspected of driving under the influence. In theory, these tests are designed for sober drivers to easily pass and for impaired drivers to clearly fail. However, this is not always the case. Throughout each of the tests, law enforcement officers will be looking for slip ups, or clues, indicating impairment. Unfortunately, the line between passing and failing these tests are completely subjective and open to the interpretation of a suspicious officer.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test is used to identify a nystagmus, or involuntary twitch in your eye, as an officer moves a stimulus (such as a pen or finger) across your face. All eyes will have a nystagmus when the eye is at an angle greater than 45 degrees. Those with alcohol in their system, however, can have it happen before 45 degrees.

While the HGN test is the most scientific of all of the FSTs, it is still open to interpretation and highly subjective. While alcohol is shown to cause nystagmus, it’s not the only cause. This makes the reliability of the test shaky at best.

The Walk and Turn Test

The walk and turn test is a divided attention field sobriety test. It is used to determine whether a suspect can complete tasks with divided attention. During this test, an officer will instruct you to walk nine steps heel to toe in a straight line. Once you reach nine steps, you’ll then have to turn on one foot and head back the other direction. The police officer will be taking note if you show the following clues:

Are able to maintain balance while listening to the officer’s instructionsStart before the officer has completed instructions Stop to regain balance while walking in the lineAre maintaining heel to toe walking throughoutAre using your arms to maintain balance Maintain balance while turning half way through Take the correct number of steps

If he notices you do any of these, it will be taken as a “clue” you are under the influence.

The One Leg Stand Test

Like the walk and turn test, the One Leg Stand is designed to test if you’re able to complete tasks with divided attention.

Standing with one foot approximately 6 inches off the ground and your foot pointed, you must keep perfect balance while counting to 30. Your arms are to remain at your side and you must be looking down the entire time. The officer will be on the lookout for if you display the following:
Put your foot down before the test is complete Sway over the course of the 30 secondsHop while attempting to maintain balance Use your arms to help maintain balance

Again, any of these will be taken as a “clue.”

It’s important to remember that field sobriety tests are designed to make you look impaired– whether you are or not.

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Seattle Traffic Tickets-Here’s What You Do

Posted Friday, November 17, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

If you are ticketed by a Seattle Police Officer, your matter will most likely be filed in Seattle Municipal Court. You need to first check the “Contested Hearings” box on your ticket and mail it into the court within 15 days. But instead of immediately setting your case for a Contested Hearing, this court will first set your matter for a Pre-Hearing Conference. It’s important to understand that if you choose to handle the ticket yourself, the Pre-Hearing Conference will only allow you to mitigate or seek a lower fine but not have your infraction dismissed. This is what the Contested Hearing is for. Once a client retains me for a Seattle ticket, I routinely file a waiver of the Pre-Hearing Conference and request the case be set for a Contested Hearing, which is the proper forum to challenge your ticket and keep it off your record. So don’t waste your time sitting at a Pre-Hearing Conference if you truly want to keep this ticket off your record. Instead, call my office at 206-729-3477 and let me take care of your ticket for you.

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Do Traffic Laws Apply to Parking Lots?

Posted Wednesday, November 8, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

A friend of mine asked me the other day about what laws apply to vehicles moving around a parking lot versus a regular public road. For example, can you be ticketed for running a stop sign in a parking lot?

Traffic laws such as stop signs and other common violations in public parking lots are treated as if they were committed on private property. In other words, these violations are not enforceable as traffic infractions on private property like parking lots. So you can’t be ticketed for running a stop sign in a parking lot, but if you hit a pedestrian or another car after ignoring a stop sign, it would increase your liability for the accident and any injuries that result. You can also be arrested for DUI, Reckless Driving or Negligent Driving-2nd Degree in a parking lot.

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DUI-Breath Test and No Breath Test

Posted Friday, November 3, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

Most people are aware that to commit the crime of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) means driving with an alcohol concentration at .08 or higher. But there is also another definition and that is driving when affected by alcohol and/or drugs. In other words, a person is guilty of DUI if his or her ability to drive is lessened to any appreciable degree, regardless of the quantity of alcohol or drugs in their system.

This means that a person who blows below .08 may be arrested, charged, and convicted of DUI. It also means that a person with no alcohol in their system, but who has some quantity of drugs in his or her system, including prescription medications, may be convicted of DUI. I have represented individuals with very low alcohol concentrations—as low as .05, including senior citizens who have taken only their prescribed medication as ordered by physicians.

Many times the evidence in cases consist solely of the subjective opinion of the arresting police officer, who will be called to express an opinion about the accused’s sobriety state, citing to his or her experience as a police officer. Such testimony can also include roadside tests, otherwise known as Field Sobriety Tests, which are not even designed to measure a person’s ability to drive. These tests are no more than physical exercises designed to create imbalance, but spun to convince a jury that they test impairment, when this is not the case.

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Speed Measured by RADAR

Posted Wednesday, October 25, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

RADAR stands for Radio Detection And Ranging, and is a general term for determining the range, angle, or velocity of objects. Modern traffic radar uses the Doppler effect, which is an increase or decrease in the frequency of waves traveling between an observer and an object. Light also travels using wavelengths and this is how law enforcement officers measure speed.

When measuring for speed, a Trooper will typically use an SMD to direct a beam of light toward an object. The SMD measures the time it takes for the beam to be reflected back to the device. This split-second measurement tells the Trooper the object’s estimated speed.

Law enforcement officials typically measure speed in three different scenarios: while stationary on the side of a roadway, while in a moving motor vehicle, or from an overhead aircraft.

While stationary, an officer will simply aim an SMD at the vehicle to detect the actual speed and confirm their suspicion.

If an SMD is mounted in a moving motor vehicle, the device will measure the difference in speed between the moving police or patrol car and the suspect vehicle. The device will then attempt to calculate the true groundspeed of the suspect vehicle.Vehicle speed can also be measured and enforced by a stopwatch or GPS mapping system in overhead planes.

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