If I'm stopped by a police officer and he asks me if I've been drinking, what should I say?
You are not required to answer potentially incriminating questions. A polite "I would like to speak with an attorney before I answer any questions" is a good reply. Remember, saying that you had one or two beers is incriminating!
What is the officer looking for during the initial detention at the scene?
Answer: The traditional symptoms of intoxication taught at the police academies are flushed face, red, watery, glassy and/or bloodshot eyes, odor of alcohol on breath, slurred speech, fumbling with wallet trying to get license, staggering when exiting vehicle, and soiled, rumpled, disorderly clothing.
What should I do if I'm asked to take field sobriety tests?
Answer: You are not legally required to take any field sobriety tests; however, the evidence of your refusal to do so can be used against you. The reality is that officers have usually made up their minds to arrest when they give the field sobriety tests; the tests are simply additional evidence which the suspect inevitably "fails". Thus, in most cases a polite refusal may be appropriate.
What do police officers look for when searching for drunk drivers on the highways?
Answer: Police officers look for the following signs: turning with a wide radius, straddling center of lane marker, almost striking object or vehicle, weaving, swerving, speeding, and slow response to traffic signals.
What is SATOP?
Answer: SATOP is the Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program. If your license is suspended in conjunction with a DWI, you will have to complete SATOP before being fully reinstated. SATOP is also often a condition of probation on your criminal DWI charge. SATOP consists of an evaluation, and then placement in classes based upon the outcome of your evaluation. Costs vary depending upon your placement. Classes are available at numerous locations across the state.
What is an SR-22?
Answer: SR-22 Insurance is a form Insurance companies provide to show proof that your vehicle has liability insurance coverage for a certain specified period of time. You must contact an insurance agent in order to obtain an SR-22, and they will provide that information to the Department of Revenue. SR-22s must be filed before you can obtain restricted driving privileges and/or full reinstatement after a DWI related suspension.
What is an SIS?
Answer: SIS stands for "Suspended Imposition of Sentence." When a prosecutor offers you probation with an SIS, it means that successful completion of probation will result in you never receiving a conviction for DWI on your record. If you violate the terms of the probation, you will face a probation revocation hearing.
What is a Burden of Proof and How Does it Apply to the Prosecutor in My Case?
In every DWI case, the prosecution has the burden of offering evidence to prove that you committed the acts for which you are being charged. There are different levels of proof depending upon the nature of the case and the charges against you. We've all heard of "proof beyond a reasonable doubt," but you may not realize that this does not apply in all cases. However, regardless of the level of proof required, the prosecuting attorney is faced with the pressure of presenting a case against you. This pressure can be a powerful bargaining tool when moving forward with your case.
TWO TYPES OF CASES MEANS TWO DIFFERENT TYPES OF PROOF
In a hearing regarding the loss of your license for refusal to blow or for blowing over .08%, the standard of proof is much lower than that of a criminal case. The state attorney need only show that the arresting officer had probable cause to believe that you were driving in violation of an alcohol related offense. Police officers look at many different factors in determining probable cause, and there is no set formula that the courts use in upholding an officer's determination. Some things that the officer will testify to and the court will take into consideration include: your speech, balance, redness of eyes, odor of alcohol, your attitude, your performance on field sobriety tests, and even the officer's experience with DWI cases.
In the criminal case against you, the prosecution has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you 1) operated a motor vehicle, and 2) that you did so while in an intoxicated or drugged condition. If the prosecution cannot prove both of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, a jury cannot convict you. The prosecution will use many of the same factors in building a criminal case against you as the state attorney uses in an administrative case. In addition to the factors listed above, a refusal to submit to blood alcohol testing can be used as proof against you. However, the prosecution must meet a much higher standard of proof than that which is required in an administrative hearing.
When advising you on your case and planning for your administrative hearing and criminal case, a good attorney will review all of these factors as well as many, many others and build a case to undermine the state's evidence. You should obtain a copy of your police report as well, so that you can alert your attorney to any inconsistencies or false statements in the officer's report. Your side of the story is just as important and valuable as the officer's.