The Great Vegas Festival of Beer

On Saturday, April 26, 2014, this event,a favorite with locals, returns to downtown Vegas. In attendance will be over 80 Breweries sampling their craft beers. Additionally, there will be live music, games and of course food served up by local food trucks and restaurants. To gain admission you must be at least 21 years of age with a valid photo ID. Tickets start at $40 for entry and include unlimited samples of over 250 craft beers. A portion of the proceeds goes to benefit the Nevada Craft Brewers Association as well as The Boys and Girls Club of Las Vegas.

When attending this type of event it is a good idea to have a designated driver. Designated driver tickets are available for $20 and include water and soda. I know many of you will find yourself without a designated driver this weekend and will take the chance of driving yourself home. I would not recommend that any of you make this decision but I know it will still happen. If you find yourself coming into contact with law enforcement on your drive home here are some things to remember to protect yourself.

In Nevada, there are two ways to convict someone of a DUI. The first is under a “per se” theory. If an individual has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher, that individual is per se intoxicated. Under this theory, the government has to prove that you were driving a motor vehicle and had a BAC over .08 within two hours of the stop. The second is known as an impairment theory. This is used when the government does not know or cannot prove what an individual’s BAC is. Here, the government must prove that you were driving a motor vehicle while you were impaired by an intoxicating liquor. This theory requires a lot more evidence to be obtained by the investigating officer.

When you are stopped by a police officer you will be questioned. The officer is questioning you because he or she is investigating a potential crime. It could be because the officer witnessed you commit a traffic violation, or because your taillight is burned out or because the officer suspects you are under the influence of an intoxicating liquor. The list can go on and on. The important thing to remember is that the officer is there to gather evidence…evidence against you. You do not have to help him or her in gathering this evidence. Specifically, you do not have to perform field sobriety tests.

When an officer asks you to perform field sobriety tests, it is because the officer already suspects that you are intoxicated. Police officers are trained to recognize many different signs that a person has been drinking alcohol. We all know the common indicators. An erratic driving pattern such as weaving within your lane or outside your lane, an odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from your person, bloodshot watery eyes, slurred speech, and trouble maintaining balance. The officer will document all of these observations in his or her police report. Additionally, the officer will ask you to perform and will document how you perform field sobriety tests.

Again, you do not have to do these tests. There are three tests that have been extensively studied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The first is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test.  An officer will ask you to follow an object, usually his or her finger, with your eyes. For most people, nystagmus, or a jerking movement of the eye, is not present. However, consumption of alcohol causes nystagmus to occur. NHTSA studies state that failure of this test indicates an 88% likelihood of a .08 or higher BAC.

The second test is the Walk and Turn test. The officer will ask you to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line. After the nine steps you must turn on one foot and walk back in the same manner. Failure of this test indicates a 79% percent likelihood of a .08 or higher BAC.

The third test is the One Leg Stand test. Here, the officer will instruct you to stand with one foot six inches off the ground and count aloud until told to put your foot down. The officer will time you for 30 seconds. NHTSA research states failure of this test indicates a 83% likelihood of a .08 or higher BAC.

If you fail all three tests, research indicates a 91% likelihood of a BAC over .08. This is usually enough evidence for a Judge to convict someone of driving under the influence on an impairment theory alone. Again, you do not have to do these tests. Nevada law does not require anyone to submit to standardized field sobriety tests. The officer cannot force you to perform these tests. The only reason the officer wants you take these tests is so he or she can build a case against you.

After the field sobriety tests, the officer may ask you to perform a preliminary breath test using a portable breathalyzer. Do this test. This test cannot be used as evidence of your BAC. If you refuse to take this test, Nevada law states that the officer shall seize your driver’s license, arrest you and take you for evidentiary testing. This is usually done at one of the detention centers in the Las Vegas valley.

At the detention center you have the choice of submitting to a breath test or a blood test. Do this test. If you refuse the evidentiary test, the officer can force you to submit to a blood draw. You will be tied down and your blood will be forcibly taken.

I hope none of you will have to experience any of what I have explained this weekend. If you are stopped by law enforcement, please remember to be courteous. The officer is just doing his or her job. But, also remember you have rights and you do not have to help law enforcement build a case against you. Be safe and have fun!