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Common police mistakes in DUI cases

On Behalf of | Apr 18, 2022 | DUI

DUI crashes are the reason that officers in South Carolina and other states have the right to enforce drunk driving laws. However, there are mistakes that police may make during the stop or arrest.

Lack of reasonable suspicion and probable cause

For a case to hold up in court, the officer needs reasonable suspicion to pull a driver over. This means the officer suspects that the driver committed a crime or broke a traffic law, such as speeding or running stop signs.

The Fourth Amendment requires an officer to have probable cause, or evidence to prove a reasonable belief that the driver is intoxicated. An officer may gather this evidence from observing the driver, hearing witness testimony, smelling alcohol, seeing open containers and performing chemical testing. If the officer didn’t have probable cause, it might be possible to get the case against the driver dismissed.

Chemical test inaccuracy

Most officers use a breathalyzer after they conduct field tests if they have a suspicion of a DUI. Breathalyzers must be calibrated, by checking the sensors for accuracy, by a certified technician with the proper training. The officer should also watch the driver for 15-20 minutes to ensure that the driver doesn’t vomit or burp before the test.

If the police do not get the device calibrated or the tech lacks training, it may give false results. In addition, blood and urine samples are sometimes not stored properly; they get contaminated or mishandled by employees, which could skew results.

Field sobriety test errors

Field sobriety tests check the driver’s ability to listen and balance by having them do three tests. Three standard tests endorsed by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration include the walk-and-turn test, horizontal nystagmus gaze test and the one-leg stand. The NHTSA requires the officer to get trained in test administration and follow specific guidelines. Age, weight, medical conditions, uneven surfaces, weather and nervousness can impact test results even for sober drivers.

A drunk driving conviction can impact a driver’s future for years to come. However, officers can make mistakes, which may get the case dismissed or the charges reduced.