It All Starts With Your Arrest

You’re on your way home.

You’ve only had two or three drinks, maybe a little more than you should have, but you’re okay. You’re only going home. You’ve done this a million times.

You glance in your rearview mirror and see flashing lights. Your stomach drops and your night takes a whole new turn.

Unless they’ve experienced it, many people aren’t sure what to expect once they see those flashing red and blue lights atop the police car, but from the minute they come on, your every move is under a microscope.

“We have literally minutes with this person,” Todd Mineweaser with the Warren County DUI Task Force said. “Cops are good at noticing the details. We train ourselves to see little clues.

“You get more passionate the longer you’re on the job because you see these terrible things. Most guys don’t have a lot of sympathy when they arrest for it.”

Once an police officer approaches your vehicle, you can expect one of his first questions to be the classic, “Do you know why I pulled you over?”

At that point, the officer is taking mental note of more than just your answer; he’s considering your behavior, clarity of speech, body language and any number of other details to help him make a call on your condition.

“When you start arguing with me,” Mineweaser said, “I realize maybe your judgment is impaired. If you’re making up stories, I wonder why you’re lying. Is something else going on?”

From there, the officer will inevitably ask to see your driver’s license and registration, standard procedure for any traffic stop. While you retrieve the items, you and your vehicle are being examined for further clues.

“I watch your eyes, watch your movements. Scan the vehicle for empty containers,” Mineweaser said.

If something seems amiss, you’ll probably be asked to step out of your vehicle and may be asked to submit to a field sobriety test. The sobriety test, which is based on standards from the National Highway Safety Administration, is a further tool to gauge your condition. You may be asked to follow a finger or flashlight with your eyes, walk heel to toe and stand on one leg, amongst other things. The tests don’t just measure active muscle control and balance, they judge involuntary reactions as well.

“Let’s say you fail the field sobriety test,” Mineweaser said. “In my opinion, if they fail this, I place them under arrest and ask them if they’ll undergo chemical testing a blood test.”

At that point, if you refuse the chemical test, you’ll be taken back to the police station and have the consequences of not submitting explained to you. Not submitting carries mandatory penalties equal to, and often exceeding, a positive test result.

On the other hand, if you submit to the test, you’ll be taken to a hospital to undergo a blood test. The test must be administered within two hours after your vehicle was stopped.

“Most people are cooperative,” Mineweaser said. “If you show them a little respect, they show you respect.”

At that point, you’ll likely be asked whether someone is available to come and get you. If someone can, that person will be required to sign a responsibility form for you. You can expect to receive further information in the mail.

If no one is available, you will be held and, if the police feel there is a chance you won’t appear for court, you could be arraigned on charges.

Mineweaser said growing communications technology is making it easier than ever for others to alert police to possible drivers under the influence.

“More than people realize, people use these things,” Mineweaser said, holding up a cell phone. “People call these days and let us know if they see something. We have to see it ourselves, though, to make a stop.”

According to Mineweaser, while enforcement is important, prevention is the ultimate goal.

“People say, ‘I know where your checkpoint is.’ Good,” he said. “Then don’t go out and drink and drive if you know we’re out there.

“Bottom line, the message is prepare ahead of time. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t do drugs and drive. Don’t drive tired. There’s a lot of things to watch,” he continued. “I’m always looking at, obviously, I have to get this person off the street (whether they’re under the influence or driving erratically for other reasons).

“When I arrest somebody, the training I have now, I’m very, very confident they’re under the influence.”