Stranded In The Southland

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sometimes a Score Of 0.00 Is a Good Thing

Yow, I got pulled over this morning and nearly flunked a field sobriety test.

M and I were on our way home from a friend's house, and had stayed a bit later than usual for a work night -- it was about 12:10. I was tired, I've been sick lately, and so I was taking it pretty easy in the ol' Prius. I was doing an indicated 45 in a 40 zone (remind me to calibrate the speedometer with the GPS!).

I noticed a car pull up closer behind us, then saw them turn on the red lights. I pulled over smoothly and immediately. The CHP officer indicated that I was driving 50 in a 40 zone. (Again, this doesn't seem likely, but I've never known the CHP to lie. I've known 'em to give me tickets, but not to push the facts.)

After I admitted that I'd had a single beer at around 7PM (and after collecting my license, registration, and proof of insurance), the officer asked me to step out of the car, and administered what must've been a field sobriety test. I figured this must be a joke, or a training exercise, given that I'd had a single beer five hours previously, but apparently it wasn't:

  • I had to take off my glasses and follow his finger with my eyes, without moving my head.
  • I had to answer a long series of questions (while the officer took copious notes) about my current state of health (no diabetes, etc.), whether I'd had enough sleep the night before (yes, for the first time in weeks, as I've got a cold), whether I was taking any medicine, what I had for dinner, what kind of beer I had (Moose Drool Brown Ale), and so on. I presume that this is to prevent a clever defense attorney from weaseling on any these.
  • I had to follow his finger with my eyes again.
  • I had to tilt back my head, close my eyes, and indicate to the officers when 30 seconds had elapsed.
  • I had to hold up one hand, touch my finger tips to the my thumb, and count "One, Two, Three, Four, Four, Three, Two, One," and give 'em three sets of this.
  • Finally, I had to hold up one foot, parallel to the ground, while counting "One one-thousand, Two one-thousand," up to about 28.
I appear to have flubbed the "holding one foot up" test (I've often speculated that, even sober, I'm enough of a spaz to have trouble with it), so they asked me to blow into a breathalyzer, while explaining that I didn't have to, and that, if I'd really had my only beer at 7PM, this wouldn't be a problem.

I hemmed and hawed for awhile -- I feel strongly about refusing "optional" searches, since if we don't defend our rights, we'll lose 'em -- but I was tired and freaked out about the whole thing, and, after 30 seconds or so, agreed to the test.

Turns out, I blew a 0.00. No detectable alcohol. Heh. They told me to get back in my car, then stopped me, and explained that they would just give me a warning on the speeding, and that it was a good thing I'd done the breathalyzer, 'cause otherwise they would've had to take me in because I'm unable to balance on one leg.

They were trying to be friendly (and, I'll give 'em this, they were absolutely respectful and polite the whole time), and explained that, usually, people over 51 had a hard time with the one foot thing (I'm a decade or so younger). That's me, precocious.

[Update: I don't think that my little narrative managed to express the frustration of getting pulled over on the flimsiest of excuses and tested for 20 minutes in the freezing cold when I was already tired and ill and anxious to finish my three mile drive home. While the officers were certainly polite, this seemed pretty ridiculous. I wonder how often folks get put through this only to be proven to be sober?]