Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Jay Ratliff was recently arrested on suspicion of DWI. If the matter goes to trial, however, certain procedural irregularities in the arrest record may prove to be a source of dispute.
As a preliminary matter, the responding officer arrived on the scene in response to a traffic accident. Ratliff’s Ford F-150 had veered into an 18-wheeler and struck the guardrail.
According to the officer’s notes, his first impressions upon arriving on the scene were that that he did not initially smell alcohol on Ratliff’s breath, and that Ratliff was moving around fairly well considering the magnitude of the wreckage. In fact, the officer’s notes clearly state that Ratliff was not slurring his words and did not show any outward signs of intoxication.
Yet because the accident happened in the late nighttime, the officer wanted to investigate the possibility of an alcohol-related accident. The details of why the officer then subjected Ratliff to a field sobriety test are not entirely clear. Notably, the officer wrote in his notes that people who are in very good physical condition can mask intoxication very well with speech and balance.
Apparently acting on that suspicion — which an experienced DWI defense lawyer might argue was not supported by probable cause — the policeman spoke to Ratliff a second time. This time around, the officer allegedly smelled a moderate odor of alcoholic beverage on the NFL player’s breath and observed his eyes to be bloodshot.
The officer then subjected Ratliff to a field sobriety test. In our next post, we discuss that test in greater detail, as well as some of the common challenges raised against field sobriety tests.