Call Us: 202-630-0939

Ward DUI Arrest Highlights Probable Cause, Field Sobriety Testing in D.C.

by | Jul 19, 2011

The drunk driving arrest of NFL star Hines Ward has caused controversy from New England to Southern Georgia, where police initiated a traffic stop and reportedly found the star receiver reeking of alcohol, unsteady on his feet and unable to recite his abc’s, according to WMGT News.

The flames were fanned when Ward’s attorney told reporters the that the Pittsburgh wide receiver was not intoxicated. The Baltimore Sun reports his blood alcohol level was 1.28 — more than 1.5 times the nationwide limit of .08.

As we have reported on Our DC DWI Lawyer Blog, the government does not have to prove intoxication — only that a driver was over the legal limit. However, the fact remains everyone is entitled to a proper defense and an experienced DC drunk driving defense attorney could gov erment make several observations about this case. First, as we have reported regarding field-sobriety testing, there are only three recognized tests: the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the walk and turn and the one-legged stand.

Ward’s failure to recite his abc’s is essentially irrelevant. Perhaps English is a second language. Maybe the officer misunderstood him. Maybe a defendant is illiterate. None of that is a crime. Ward’s attorney is right in that the results of such testing are nothing more than an officer’s opinion of a defendant’s guilt. When you take into account the fact that the officer’s job is to collect evidence of guilt, it become pretty clear that a defendant has little chance of “passing.”

Also at issue is the probable cause for the traffic stop. The officer reported Ward failed to stay within marked lanes (that he was swerving in plain speak) and that he smelled of alcohol and had bloodshot eyes. Of course he did. That is the probable cause listed on more than 90 percent of all DUI arrests. An officer must have a reason to first sto p your vehicle and then to request that you submit to field testing. You may even be accused of swerving within your own lane. Many times an experienced drunk driving defense lawyer can challenge such cause.

In fact, nationwide statistics show somewhere between one-fourth and one-third of those charged with drunk driving are not convicted. Contesting an officer’s training to perform field sobriety testing (or the tests performed) is another avenue to fight the charges. As is challenging the results of breathalyzer testing.

The truth of the matter is that drunk driving charges are among the most commonly filed charges in the United States. The consequences can be serious. And too often those charged have little or no experience with the criminal justice system. There are many ways such charges can be challenged. And keeping a drunk driving charge off your record can prevent job loss, license suspension, jail time, skyrocketing insurance premiums and the serious consequences that come with a second or subsequent conviction.

Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera recently got his driver’s license back despite a pending DUI case in Florida after arguing Florida DUI law did not permit arrest of a driver found drunk in a disabled vehicle. Cabrera was found with a bottle of Scotch inside a 2005 Land Rover, which had broken down at the side of the road.


D.C. DUI Defense Attorney Christopher Mutimer offers Free and Confidential Consultations. Call 202-765-3175