This blog post was a contribution by a staff writer.
It is important for people to remember that you can be arrested for a DUI without a breathalyzer test. In fact, there are times where you can be arrested in scenarios where you are not even pulled over. A recent case in the District of Columbia exemplifies this possibility perfectly.
WJLA reports that on October 7th, 2013, an on-duty D.C. Public Schools bus driver was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), and was charged with both a DUI and operating a vehicle while impaired (OWI). The bus driver, 55-year-old Fritz Gerald Aubin, was arrested after failing field sobriety tests, likely the Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFST). He was fired before the end of October, according to the Associated Press.
Aubin was driving a bus of special needs students when he left his stalled bus in the middle of the street near a gas station. Aubin then proceeded to enter the gas station, where he asked the attendant for a red gas can.
The attendant gave Aubin a red gas can, which is only for use with gasoline. However, Aubin’s DCPS bus runs on diesel fuel, which requires a yellow can. There were some plainclothes DC police officers nearby, and they became suspicious for several reasons. Primarily, they were suspicious because Aubin was filling a red gas can with diesel. But they also noticed Aubin’s uniform was dirty and he was spilling gasoline on the pavement.
The plainclothes officers then administered a battery of field sobriety tests, which Aubin failed. WJLA states that Aubin failed the tests because he “couldn’t walk in a straight line or count out loud, … was unable to stand on one leg … [and] when asked to take eight steps, he told the cops he had taken six, after which the police immediately arrested him.”
Although I do not know for certain exactly what tests the officers administered on Aubin, it is very likely that they used the battery of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The SFST is comprised of three separate tests where a person is asked to do a certain task and the individual administering the test looks for a number of indicators while the person attempts to complete the task.
The three tests are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), the Walk and Turn (WAT), and the One Leg Stand (OLS) tests. For more information on these tests, visit our field sobriety test page.
HGN testing involves the officer asking a person to follow an object or light horizontally with his or her eyes, while the officer observes the person’s eyes. There are six indicators, three in each eye, related to whether the eyes can smoothly track the object or light. Although the officers may have administered this test on Aubin, there has been no report of it.
The second test, the Walk and Turn, certainly seems to have administered. It, like the One Leg Stand test, is a divided attention test that requires a person to perform simple physical tasks while listening to and following instructions.
The Walk and Turn test requires a person to take a number of steps (usually nine) along a straight line in one direction, turn on one foot, and then return in the same number of steps, all heel-to-toe. Officers administering the test look for eight indicators, and assume people exhibiting two or more are likely impaired. Aubin seems to have exhibited at least two of the indicators: failing to follow a straight line and taking an incorrect number of steps.
The One Leg Stand test has officers looking for two or more of a total of four indicators. The person taking the test is required to stand on one leg while counting aloud by thousands. Indicators of impairment are swaying, using arms, or hopping to maintain balance, and putting one’s foot down. Therefore, when Aubin was unable to stand on one leg (or even to count aloud), he would have failed this test as well.
The police officers arrested Aubin without administering a preliminary breath test because Aubin exhibited so many indicators of impairment during the field sobriety tests. Drivers should also keep in mind, after reading over the requirements of the field sobriety tests, that sober individuals may also have trouble completing those tests to the satisfaction of a police officer. The tests consider things like using arms to balance as indicators of impairment, for example.
If you have been charged with a DUI in DC after failing a sobriety test, please contact a DC DUI lawyer (our DC office website available here).
If you have been charged with a DUI in Maryland, please visit the Law Office of Edward Tayter website (click this link) to contact an experienced Maryland DUI attorney.