Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Police Officers Know You Should Refuse The Tests

Police say they couldn't legally prove deputy was intoxicated in Feb. 6 incident

An off-duty Williamson County sheriff's deputy was stopped by the Round Rock Police, but was not arrested because he refused the field sobriety tests and officers could not prove he was legally drunk, according to police reports.

Williamson Deputy, Craig Ferguson was driving home from Hooters in Round Rock, where he drank a "couple of pitchers" of beer and hung out with lieutenants and other "high on the hog" personnel, when Round Rock Sgt. Nathan Zoss noticed him weaving in a black Toyota Tacoma, the police reports show.

After pulling Ferguson over, he pulled out his driver's license. Officer Zoss saw his badge and discovered he was a sheriff's deputy. Zoss could smell alcohol on Ferguson's breath and asked him to step out of the truck and take field sobriety tests, such as standing on one leg and walking in a straight line.

The video shows Ferguson stumble as he got out of the car, and more than one officer ask him to submit to a field sobriety test.

Wisely, Officer Ferguson told the officers, "I'm not going to do any of that."

Zoss later wrote in his report that without the deputy's cooperation, he did not think he had enough proof that Ferguson was legally drunk. At that point, he called Ferguson's supervisors.

When Sgts. Sharif Mezayek and Patrick Erickson arrived, Ferguson told them he drank "a couple of pitchers" of beer at Hooters. They told him to take the sobriety test, but he continued to refuse.

On the video, Zoss tells other officers that if Ferguson were a civilian, he could call someone to take him home, or arrest him for traffic violations. But the jail might refuse a prisoner with minor charges, Zoss said.

"If he doesn't have the cooperation of the person and doesn't have enough visual, verbal and other clues to have probable cause, then it is a judgment call from the officer's standpoint," Chris Heaton, president of the Texas Municipal Police Association.

Heaton said state law does not allow the officer to confiscate a driver's license for refusing to take a field sobriety test. Officers can take away a license if the driver refuses a breath test, but only after probable cause has been established, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

During the traffic stop, Round Rock officers did not take Ferguson's license. Instead, Zoss issued Ferguson two traffic citations for stopping in the wrong place and disregarding traffic control devices and allowed Ferguson's wife to drive him home.

On the video, Zoss complains that Ferguson's behavior put officers in a tough spot.

"You put us in a difficult situation here," Zoss said to Ferguson.

Do not think for a moment that this officer didn't get special treatment. If you refuse the tests, odds are good you will be going to jail. However, remember you have the right to refuse to do the tests! That applies to the Breath, blood or urine tests, as well as any field tests.

If you are charged with a DWI in Austin, Travis County, or any of the surrounding Central Texas Counties, please click here ==> DWI Defense

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