Common Mistakes Made During a DWI Investigation

Thomas Jeter • October 29, 2014

Common Mistakes Made During a DWI Investigation

If a member of law enforcement pulls you over on suspicion of drunk driving in South Carolina, there is a set process he or she is supposed to follow. Drivers have rights, including the right to refuse a field sobriety test or breath test, though the latter has some serious consequences. If an officer makes a mistake during the investigation, it is possible that the charges will be reduced or even dismissed. Know how to spot the signs that a mistake was made, such as these:

1.     Lack of Reasonable Suspicion

 An officer must have a reasonable suspicion that a law has been broken in order to pull over your vehicle. That does not necessarily mean that law enforcement must notice you swerving; in many cases, they may pull you over because of a broken taillight or failure to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. However, if they lack that justification, an attorney can make a motion to suppress any evidence collected during the investigation. If accepted, odds are the case will be dismissed.

 2.     Field Sobriety Tests Misconduct

 The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration has set guidelines for law enforcement to follow when conducting these tests. While these tests are optional, drivers who choose to take them could be sober and still fail. How? Because there are other factors that can affect the outcome of a test, such as weather conditions, a medical condition the driver has or even the physical environment, like uneven pavement. Failing to factor in extenuating circumstances can lead to inaccurate results.

 3.     Breath Test Errors

 The National Institutes of Health conducted a study that found breath tests can produce significant errors that result in registering an illegal blood alcohol concentration. Beyond that, there may be errors made during the administration of the test, such as failure to recalibrate the machine or ensuring that the driver does not vomit prior to taking the test, which can cause a higher concentration of alcohol in the mouth.

South Carolina law requires that a breath test is taken within two hours of the arrest, and only an officer trained and certified by the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy may administer the test.

 4.     Sobriety Checkpoint Errors

South Carolina does allow for sobriety checkpoints, though other states have deemed them unconstitutional. The Supreme Court of the United States has, however, ruled several times on the topic and has suggested several guidelines, such as law enforcement should have a set formula for pulling over vehicles instead of picking cars randomly.

If you are facing DWI charges, it is important to work with an attorney who can identify these errors. Allow our team at Nosal & Jeter LLP to help you fight the arrest.