Dan Solomon is Asylum's resident Renaissance Man and DWI expert.
I spent most of my 20s only taking on work that I could find on the "gigs" section of Craigslist
. They led me to very strange places with very strange people, often putting very strange things in my body
, but the one that was most educational involved making copies of DWI arrest videos for a law firm that defended the people in the tapes.
By "educational," I mostly mean that I learned a whole bunch of things you should never, ever, ever say or do in front of a police officer who suspects you of driving while intoxicated. Keep reading for four of the most important don'ts for that pivotal moment ...
"I couldn't do that even if I was sober!"
Something like this came out of the suspect's mouth in roughly one of every four or five arrest videos, when the officer requests that they walk a straight line touching their heel to their toe, or stand on one foot for 30 seconds
. The person who says it always has this look on his or her face that seems to say, "I have outwitted you with the power of logic!" -- at least for the first 10 seconds, before he realizes that what he's just said is a tacit admission of guilt, freely offered and caught on video.
The worst part of it is that sometimes -- not every time, but occasionally -- it was clear that the person in question was
sober. (Not everyone stopped for DWI is actually guilty.) But it's a mouthful to say what you mean in that case, which is "even though I'm sober, officer, I lack the proper coordination to perform those tasks."
Actually taking the test
I watched dozens of arrest tapes while working this gig, and you know what I never saw? A person getting un-arrested for doing such a good job on the field sobriety tests.
Try one now -- stand up, put your hands straight down by your side, elevate one leg 6-8 inches off the ground, and remain perfectly still, while counting to 30
. Did you sway or wobble at all? Now imagine you're doing this on the side of the freeway in the middle of the night. And I'm betting that you're sober right now.
The tests are very difficult, and when the person in the video shouts, "I couldn't do that even if I was sober!" he's telling the truth. You're under no obligation to provide incriminating evidence against yourself -- and when the police officer asks you to get out of the car, he's now in evidence-gathering mode. Check out the girl in this video:
At the 1:35 mark, when she shifts her balance as he's giving her the instructions, she's probably already failed the test. Part of my job included reading the arrest reports after watching the videos, and 10 times out of 10, the slightest stumble would be noted as proof of intoxication.
Not saying, "I'd like to have a lawyer present."
Summoning the cojones
to tell a cop that you're not going to take his tricky tests isn't an easy task. Especially because the circumstances suck -- odds are you're on your way home, and suddenly you've got the word "jail" in the back of your head. The police officer who pulled you over is aware of this, and he's going to use that to convince you that he just needs to check and make sure you're OK to drive home. I've seen people stand on one leg like they had been standing like that for six hours a day since they turned 13, and they still get arrested. So the mantra to remember when refusing to take the tests is this: "I'd like to talk to have a lawyer present, please.
When someone says this, the officer usually makes fun of him: "We're on the side of the road, I don't think a lawyer's coming!" or something clever like that. That's not the point -- by invoking your right to an attorney, the nature of the questioning changes, and it also gives you something to say whenever the officer tries to get you to do something else that's not going to help you out.
In one tape I saw a woman stand perfectly straight on the side of the road, saying the words "I'm not going to answer that; I'd like to see an attorney" about 40 times. She got arrested like everybody else, but she also found herself released with the charges dismissed before the sun rose the next morning.
Being in that position in the first place.
While it happens sometimes that people who haven't had a sip of alcohol in 10 years still get stopped and questioned about drinking and driving, most of the people who get pulled over for it have
probably had some alcohol at some point in the evening.
And just because you're not drunk
, only a little bit buzzed, that doesn't mean you're not still guilty. Remember: The charge is "driving while intoxicated" (or, in some states, "driving under the influence"). The word "drunk" doesn't factor into it. One guy's "buzzed" is everybody else's "intoxicated" or "under the influence".
Now, not everyone who had a beer with dinner three hours before they got pulled over is actually guilty of DWI, but the whole process of being stopped for it stacks the deck against you. With that in mind, we recommend a designated driver who takes the role seriously if you're going to be drinking. That's not "the guy who drank the least" (my favorite arrest tape ever starred a guy who insisted, "I had to drive -- look how messed up my buddies are!"), but someone who's actually not going to be drinking.
There are lots of ways to pick a good designated driver. I recommend any of the following: befriending a Mormon, figuring out where the straight-edge
street punks like to hang out, or partying with a guy who's so anal-retentive about his new car that he wouldn't risk driving after taking a sip of communion wine.
That's what that ridiculous job taught me