What Do Police Typically Look For At The Scene Of An Accident To Suspect A DUI?
Police who were called to an accident scene would usually be looking to see whether someone was at fault for the accident and they would want to see whether anyone had acted in a negligent manner to cause the accident. The presence of another driver would be different than an accident that involved hitting a parked car, building, house or something like that. Officers who arrived would want to speak with individuals who were operating the cars, and while speaking to them, they would try to see whether there was anything unusual about the way the person was acting or speaking. They would see if they could detect any signs or odors of alcohol or any drug indicators, which would be something that would lead them to believe the person might be under the influence of alcohol or some other controlled substance. They would make an inquiry and they would try and get the person’s side of the story or their version of what happened so they could see if the person’s speech was slow, slurred or exceedingly fast and rapid. They would see if the person was steady on their feet and they would look at their eyes to see if their pupils were constricted and if they were red, bloodshot or glossy. These would be the typical things that would be put in a DUI report and overall they would be looking at the person’s physical characteristics.
If some of those characteristics were present, then a good officer would hopefully try to rule out whether that was caused by the accident. A paramedic might be on the scene, and they would be able to quickly have a look at the individual so they could try and make a determination right there. They would dig a little bit deeper if they believed the person was under the influence of something, and then they might possibly proceed with the DUI investigation.
Do Officers Generally Conduct Roadside Tests Or Is The Person Arrested If Drugs And Alcohol Are Suspected?
If the officer detected some signs or indicators of drug or alcohol use, then the officer could try and conduct a field investigation if the individual or the driver was not being hauled away in an ambulance or receiving emergency medical care. They could put the driver through the standard field sobriety tests such as the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, also known as the Eye test, the 9 step walk and turn, or the One Leg Stand test. If they suspected there was alcohol involved, they would have the person blow into a PBT. They would not just directly take the person to jail, because they would have to do a little bit of investigation to see how the person performed on those field sobriety tests, because that would be where they could develop their probable cause to arrest them for a possible DUI.
I have seen and handled other cases where the driver had serious injuries and had to be taken by medical personnel to the hospital. In that case the officer would usually finish up his investigation when he was done, proceed to the hospital and then interview the driver a little bit more to see if they could give them more information, if they were able to speak. The police would usually ask for a blood draw from the individual at this point.
Does Everybody Get Tested For Blood Alcohol Content If There Is Serious Injury Or Death?
Yes, although there is no law that specifically states that officers would have to request a chemical test, a blood test or a breath test or anything like that in situations where someone was seriously injured or killed. There is no statutory requirement to perform any tests, although there is of course the implied consent law. After making an arrest, if the officer believed the person may be under the influence and that he may have probable cause, then yes, he would be able to ask the person to submit to a chemical test. There has been some recent case law in Utah regarding this issue where a lady was involved in an accident that killed the driver of the motorcycle, but the officers were really not sure whether or not the driver was under the influence of anything. They somewhat coerced her into submitting to a blood draw, and that case made it all the way up to the supreme court but it was overturned because of the coercion involved in getting her to submit to the blood draw.
This somewhat solidifies the fact that there would be no statutory requirement to submit to any kind of chemical testing.
Are Blood Draws Automatically Required Or Typically Given In Cases Involving A Serious Accident?
No. The only time they would ask for a blood draw would be if they suspected something. Even if they did not suspect anything, if they did not have the probable cause or suspicion to believe the person may be under the influence, then the officer may still ask for consent for a blood draw if there had been a serious accident or injury, although that would be at the officer’s discretion.
Are There More Serious Consequences If Someone Refused A Blood Or Breath Test When Involved In An Accident?
No. The refusal would have the same sanctions as if there was no serious accident or injury, and that would go back to the implied consent law which states that it would be more of an administrative sanction if someone was placed under arrest and asked by the officer to submit to the chemical test but they refused to do so. A first refusal would be an 18-month license suspension and a second refusal for a DUI would be a 3-year license suspension, although it would get a lot worse if the person was a commercial driver. The refusal would not be more serious for a normal DUI versus a DUI involving an accident or injury.
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