If You Are Arrested, the Majority of Times You Will Have to Go through the Criminal Justice System
The Assistant State’s Attorney will usually claim there was probable cause to make the arrest based upon what LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) observed, smelled, admissions, driving and results of the SFST, the eyes were red and glassy or watery. Then when the breath test result came back there was zero alcohol percentage.
Interviewer: Are those cases pretty defensible, or is it still a problem?
Steve Tomeo: Nothing is easy. It is still problematic.
They are defensible, but there are some of them that, while you have a defense to them, you’ve still got to go through the criminal justice system, sometimes even through trial. In Connecticut, what happens if you test zero on the breath test, they’ll ask for a urine test, because then they think that possibly you have ingested some drugs.
Will Connecticut Police Request a Blood Sample from a Suspected Drunk Driver?
Interviewer: Is it rare.
If You Are Taken to the Hospital, the Police Will Request a Blood Sample
Steven: Generally, when they ask for a blood test there’s an accident, and the police officer calls an ambulance to take you to the hospital. He will follow you to the hospital, and request a blood draw. However, most of the time, the client is preoccupied with matters other than cooperating with the officer. If you get taken to the hospital, generally the emergency room physician requires some blood work. Then what happens is, if they do not make an arrest, a search warrant will issue and served on the hospital records department for the results of the blood work and then arrest you by warrant at some later date.
Are There Commonalties among DUI Arrests in Connecticut?
Interviewer: Is there any typical backstory you hear from people who have been arrested, such as, “Oh, I didn’t feel drunk,” or “I only had two beers”?
Steven: Most people are willing to admit that they ingested an alcoholic beverage. Most indicate they felt capable of operating their vehicle.
The Most Common Reason for a DUI Arrest Begins with a Police Stop for a Traffic Infraction
The arrest reports usually mention the observation by a police officer of some type of a motor vehicle violation. Even if it is an infraction, the officer can stop you and once stopped detain you for a reasonable time I mean, who hasn’t crossed the center line when driving? If you’re out at one o’clock in the morning, and you’re driving home, and you’re on a four-lane highway, two lanes going your way, a lot of times you cross over into the other lane, or maybe you weave a little bit in your lane. If at that hour the LEO observes you driving that way, he will pull you over.
The Field Sobriety Tests Are Designed to Be Difficult to Perform
At that hour, the police can get away calling it erratic driving and pull you over. God forbid you had anything to drink because when they get you out of the car, those field sobriety tests are hard for anybody to do well on. The odds are completely stacked against you. It is not like you’re taking a test in school where you can get 100 or 85 or 95. It’s really a negative test where the highest grade you can get is zero. I mean, if you get them all right, you do not get any points marked against you.
No Margin for Error: In Order to Pass the Field Sobriety Tests, You Perform All of Them Satisfactorily
Interviewer: Right. It’s like a pass/fail where the pass is a 99% or so?
Steven: In other words, you’re supposed to do them all right. The officer doesn’t say, “Oh, wow. You did these fantastic. I’m not going to arrest you.” No, no, they do not do that. What happens is, they give you these tests, and they say, “Well, you didn’t walk heel to toe, and you didn’t do that.” They are negative tests. You do not get positive points for doing parts of the test correctly. If you do everything correctly you are at Zero.
Connecticut Does Not Videotape the Field Sobriety Tests
Also, Connecticut doesn’t require the performance of the sobriety tests to be on video. I think the state would help itself, and maybe we’d even get many more cases dismissed, if they would require the police officers to put all the test performance on video. However, I do see more and more police officer recording with their in-car video recording devices and body cameras.
Corroborating Evidence: Videotape Can Support a Driver’s Claim
Interviewer: Yes, because the video doesn’t lie.
Steven: How do you corroborate? It’s the officer’s word against your word. Who do most people believe? Even though they have a hard time with the police most of the time, most people are going to say, “Well, I believe the police officer.”
Interviewer: In other states where there’s legal evidence that magically disappears sometimes, too, so that doesn’t really solve it.
Steven: I had a case where the video recording disappeared, and I went to pretrial, and the judge said, “What do you want me to do, throw out the case because there’s not a video?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “I’m not going to do that.” He laughed. He says, “I’m not going to do that, because at trial you’d have the testimony of the police officer and the ability to cross-examine him.”
Interviewer: Well, that’s true.
It Is Human Nature to Alter Testimony to Support a Particular Viewpoint
Steven: I mean, far be it for me to say that police get up on the witness stand and lie but I’ll bet you there are a ton of lawyers, a ton of criminal lawyers with vast experience in New York City or throughout the United States that would say they do. If you read any of the criminal mystery stories that are written, you’ll see that the testimony is tailored to suit their own needs.
Interviewer: Well, the police are human, just like anyone else, so they are subject to the same foibles as everyone else.
Steven: Yes, absolutely. I think it’s not the best system, but it beats whatever else is out there, so we have to do what we have to do within the frameworks of it. I’m happy with the system, but I’ve seen some of the police departments use creative writing in their arrest reports, and so, that’s that.