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Officer: Drunk drivers will go to jail

By Staff
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
Ninth in a series
Investigator Amy Crouch never again wants to knock on a door during the middle of the night and tell the person on the other side that a drunk driver has killed their loved one.
Crouch and Officer Bob Pettit explained to the academy how HPD officers identify possible DUI drivers and conduct field sobriety tests. Statistics report that drunk or impaired drivers kill or injure one person every minute, so HPD officers are vigilant in getting them off Hartselle roadways.
Under the Alabama DUI law, a person is legally intoxicated with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or more, but the law also encompasses drivers who are under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance that renders them incapable of safely driving.
A driver can be pulled over by HPD for a variety of factors, including weaving, straddling the center line, swerving, drifting, and braking erratically.
Once personal contact is made with the driver, HPD officers can determine the driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle through three field sobriety tests, if warranted.
Standardized field sobriety tests conducted by HPD officers are the one leg stand, walk and turn, and horizontal gaze nystamus. All three tests are recognized by courts and have been validated through extensive research sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The one leg stand looks for swaying, using arms to balance, hopping and putting the foot down as clues to a person’s sobriety. If a subject exhibits two of four clues, that implies the subject has a blood alcohol content of .10 percent.
The walk and turn looks for balancing during instructions, starting too soon, stopping while walking, failure to touch feet heel to toe, stepping off line, using arms to balance, losing balance on turn/turning incorrectly, and taking the wrong number of steps as clues.
A subject is deemed unable to complete the test if they step off the line three of more times, is in danger of falling, or cannot perform the test. If a suspect exhibits two or more clues, his blood alcohol contest is likely to be above .10 percent.
The horizontal gaze nystagmus tests checks the suspect’s eyes for equal tracking and pupil size and three involuntary eye movement clues apply to each eye. If the suspect exhibits four or more clues, his blood alcohol content is likely .10 percent or higher.
Academy students were presented a live demonstration with two volunteers who were administered alcohol in a controlled setting and then asked to perform all three field sobriety tests. Neither passed all portions of the tests, which students were allowed to grade.
One subject’s blood alcohol content, determined by a portable breath analysis machine, was well over the legal limit at .12 percent, while the second subject’s was .07 percent.
The DUI fine for first offenders in Hartselle is $990 and $2,500 for second offenders, plus DUI courses and license reinstatement.

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