Do you have to consent to roadside sobriety tests?

            One of the most common violations against the law that people commit is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is why various laws have implemented to check on people who may have consumed alcohol or drugs as they are driving. However, there are also a lot of issues and legal issues raised when one is flagged down by police officer because of possible driving under the influence (DUI). In this regard, Nolo podcast sought the legal opinion of Atty. Aaron Bortel, a San Francisco lawyer and an expert on DUI laws, to shed light on several issues regarding the matter, particularly addressing the the question of consenting to roadside sobriety tests. The test normally involves a police officer asking a driver suspected of DUI to step out of his or her vehicle and display his or her balance usually through walking a straight line or responding normally to the officer’s questions.  If the officer able find reasonable cause that the driver is under the influence, the officer will then arrest the driver and subject him or her to either a blood test or a breath test.

            Although a driver arrested for DUI may refuse to take the sobriety test, according to the resource person, Atty.  Bortel, it is often in his or her best interest to do so. If the the driver refuses, his or her license will be suspended for one year. In addition, it is also the officer’s job to inform the driver of the consequences should he or she refuse to undergo a sobriety test (Nolo.com, 2006).

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            Most of all, Bortel also explained that the legal basis of the said test is on the documents one sign when one gets his or her driver’s license. It is stated in the document, that a driver impliedly consents to taking a chemical test once he or she has been arrested for DUI. If the driver is found to be guilty for DUI after taking a chemical test, he or she may be fined and imprisoned usually, for six months to one year, depending on the laws of the state, the number of the offenses committed by the driver, and the nature of the offense.

            Furthremore, Bortel added that a driver arrested for DUI can also be charged with felony if he or she causes injury to other people. The injury may be either to a person in another vehicle, a passerby, a bystander, or someone together with the driver in the vehicle. However, the degree of injury may determine whether the driver will be charged with DUI or misdemeanor (Nolo.com, 2006). If the injury is grave, then the driver will be charged with felony DUI.

            Moreover, aside from imprisonment and varying amounts of fines, drivers arrested for DUI may also be tasked to do community work especially if the first offense. Bortel states that in some counties, arrested offenders are mandated to assist the sheriff in the office or picking up trash during the day instead of spending a night in jail. However, he also noted that there are other counties that have harsher penalties even for first-time offenders.

            A first-time offender would also face a three-year probationary period, according to Bortel. More importantly, he also believes that the penalties of DUI have become more harsher over the past years and as a result, offenders are more cautious when driving. Meaning to say, the stricter rules and laws covering DUI have compelled people, especially those with previous cases, to learn their lesson and avoid being placed in situations such as ending up in jail or losing their driver’s license.

            Over-all, what I learned the most from this transcript is the importance of imposing stricter penalties on people who driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A drunk driver can unconsciously cause significant damage not only to property but to human lives as well if he or she is not caught. Therefore, the DUI laws serve as a stern warning to people who are planning drive after consuming alcohol or taking drugs. I also believe that the implied consent signed upon obtaining one’s driver’s license is necessary so that new drivers would be more careful when on the road.

References

NoloPodcast.com. (2006). Do you have to consent to roadside sobriety tests? Retrieved June 3, 2009 from http://nolopodcast.blogspot.com/2006/08/do-you-have-to-consent-to-roadside.html.

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