Thursday, August 16, 2007

Anatomy of a DUI Arrest

by Joyce Tremel

The following is fiction, but details what a typical DUI arrest might be like—at least in Shaler Township. Definitely not great literature by any means, but you'll get the idea.


I flicked the switch for the overhead lights on my patrol car when the Ford Taurus that I’d been following for half a mile crossed the center line for the third time. When the car didn’t pull over, I turned on the siren. The Taurus slowed down, drifted toward the curb and stopped.

I pulled behind the car, leaving enough of my unit in the travel lane for safety. I notified dispatch of my location and gave them the registration number.

Dispatch repeated the plate information and my location. Another unit answered and said he was on his way to back me up.

I grabbed my flashlight and got out of the car. When I reached the Taurus, I pressed on the trunk. It was closed tight. No one in there. Not that there ever would be, but I didn’t like to take chances.

The driver spoke before I did, asking me why he was pulled over. His words were slurred and he reeked of alcohol.

I told him why. I shined the flashlight quickly around the inside of the car. There were four empty beer cans on the floor of the passenger side and an open can in a cup holder.

The driver fumbled with his wallet, passing over his license three times before he found it and handed it to me. He didn’t know where his registration or insurance card were.

I took his license back to my patrol car and entered the info into the MDT. His license came back DUI suspended. Surprise, surprise. Dispatch informed me his vehicle registration was also suspended. I had them notify the towing company.

As I went back to the Taurus, my back up arrived and I filled him in. He stood by while I spoke to the driver again. I asked if he had anything to drink tonight.

He assured me that he’d only had one beer with his dinner.

I suppressed a smile. Why was it they always only had one? Just once I’d like someone to say, “Hell, yeah, I’ve been drinking all night.”

I asked him to step out of the car. He swayed so much he almost fell. I asked him if he had any illness or disability which would preclude him from taking a field sobriety test. He said no and agreed to submit to the test. We moved to a well-lit parking lot nearby. I demonstrated the first one—the finger to nose test. Instead of listening to my instructions, he tried to do it at the same time as I did. The ability to listen to instruction was actually part of the test. He touched his upper lip with his left hand twice and the bridge of his nose, then the side of his nose with his right.

The second test was worse. I showed him how to hold his leg straight in front of him, six inches off the ground. He didn’t even make it to the count of one thousand two on either leg.

The third test was the straight line walk. He not only couldn’t walk heel to toe, he couldn’t even stay on the line. I placed him under arrest, handcuffed him and placed him in the back of my patrol car. The officer backing me up inventoried his car and waited for the tow, while I took the prisoner back to the station.

In the booking room I turned on the Intoxylizer machine to let it warm up while we waited the required twenty minutes before I could test his breath. In the meantime I read him the Chemical Testing form, which explained that if he refused to submit to testing, his license would be suspended for an additional year. Probably didn’t matter to him—he was suspended already and still driving.

He signed the form and I showed him how to blow into the machine. On his first reading, he blew a 0.25 and on the second, a 0.21. I gave him a copy of the reading and asked if there was someone he could call to pick him up. He arranged for his wife to get him. When she arrived at the station, I explained that he would be charged with DUI by summons and he’d be notified of the preliminary hearing. If he failed to appear, a warrant would be issued for his physical arrest and he’d be taken to the county jail.

That was one off the road. At least for tonight.

14 comments:

Gina said...

An interesting post, Joyce, as always. Thanks for the insight into a traffic stop.

With all the idiots on the road, your coworkers must do this a lot. When I worked for the parole board, I interviewed a guy who insisted he'd been wrongly convicted of DUI and various traffic violations. "How could they charge me with traffic violations?" he asked. "I don't have a license."

Nancy said...

A woman I went to high school with kinda lost her way as an adult. She was pulled over for DUI (after many priors) and when the officer (who'd stopped her before) asked if she'd been drinking, she said, "Why do you think I'm so f**kin' drunk?" And then she took a swing at him. She went to jail. The whole town is enormously amused.

Lee Lofland said...

Perfect, Joyce. Rookie officers could use your story as a guideline for conducting a DUI stop.

I like that you mentioned your backup performing an inventory of the car.

Do you mind if I say something about this? You don't? Great. Thanks, Joyce. :)

In case everyone doesn't know what an inventory search is, it's a search of the car that's conducted after a driver has been arrested (search incident to arrest). The officer makes a list of everything that's found inside the car for liability purposes and as a search for evidence of the crime that was committed. Cops also find a lot of little surprises during these searches, such as drugs, illegal weapons, stolen items, child porn, etc. It's a great tool.

Joyce, you're wasting your time behind a desk.

ramona said...

Very illuminating, Joyce. When I got to the part about the guy touching his nose instead of listening to instructions, I thought, that's would I would do, jump the gun to try to show how clever I am. Luckily, I don't drink and drive.

Although, I guess that's not luck, is it?

Joyce said...

Ramona, you're right. That's not luck, that's being smart!

ramona said...

Did you know (I didn't) that you can buy a personal Breathalyzer to carry in your purse/car? Boy, if you need one of those...

I love the thing about the runner who smokes--while running. I might need to steal that sometime. Just confessing up front.

Kristine said...

Great post, Joyce! I agree that your talents should be used for something other than typing up police reports. We're so lucky to have you in our group!

Nancy said...

I just wanna know if anybody else is finding the mental image of Lee running 5 miles backwards...both appalling (talk about physical fitness challenges!) and....okay, slightly amusing? I mean, if it had been me who had to do that, I'd have been sitting hard on my butt after 25 yards.

Lee Lofland said...

Nancy you flatter me with your gracious compliments - appalling, physically challenged, and only slightly amusing. I'm blushing...

Joyce said...

Slightly amusing is a bit of an insult. I'd say you're VERY amusing.

Lee Lofland said...

Nancy always flatters me with showers of insults.

Tory said...

Definitely count me out of the running 5 miles! I couldn't do that when I was young, thin, and folk dancing 5-6 nights a week.

I've always hated running.

-Tory (Who's excited that she finally got her internet connection back, after it being up and down all week.)

Anonymous said...

DUI is a serious problem no question.. some one can die including yourslef. HOWEVER. CHeck Points should not be legal... 4 states have rejected them being legal.. and PA should follow.. by defination they are unconstitutional..

also it's a mess conception that people that get arrested for DUI drink heavy amounts of Beer/Booze... as much as it's your guy who does drink a case and drive.. it's a husband and wife who went out to dinner and had a few glasses of wine... anwser me this state of pa DOES say it is legal to drink and drive BUT don't hit that magic .08 how do you know then you are at point .08 everyone is different... only crime you can committ and not know you are doing it. drink a few beer and wonder what your BAC is. you think you are ok and legal but are you?

oh and explain to my why we have .08 as a bench mark for being dui?? use too be .10... why to get high way dollars from the national transportation agency.. no other reason than that.. the human body did not change over the past 10 years too suddenly lower the limit too .08...

drop it to .03 to cover things like mouth wash spray food cooked in achahol... clear cut and dry...

Anonymous said...

Oh yea.. and if check points are so sucessfull....

why don't they set one up on both ends of carson street? don't let anyone in or out with out CHECK out what is goin on inside each car...

they wont.. why becasue too many poeple and even more important business owner of the bars will complain... next thing you know it will be sent back to the PA supreme count and just might get reversed.... then no more check points...

I would like too see themn set them up on carson and let see what happends...