Sports fans in Monmouth County may have heard that Jay Ratliff, a defensive lineman with the Cowboys, was recently arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. Although this could have been another story about a professional athlete drinking and driving, Ratliff’s case is especially interesting. What makes his situation so unique is that when a police officer arrived on the scene following a car crash, he found what appeared to be a sober Ratliff. Despite there being no indication that Ratliff had been drinking, the investigating officer insisted on performing field sobriety tests.
In the officer’s official report, he wrote that the lineman had no alcohol on his breath and that his movements showed no sign of impairment. Despite these signs that most people would agree indicate the Ratliff was not intoxicated, the officer chose to administer field sobriety tests because the officer knew that nighttime car accidents are sometimes the result of drunk driving. It is likely that this fact will be litigated when Ratliff is brought to trial, as it is not entirely clear if the officer had the requisite suspicion to administer such a test.
During the field sobriety tests, it was reported that Ratliff had some trouble with a few of the tests. The officer then chose to arrest the lineman and transported him to a local police department jail for booking. There, Ratliff refused to take a breath test and officers sought a warrant for a blood test.
While he was being taken to jail, Ratliff told the officer that he had suffered some injuries that may have impaired his ability to perform the field sobriety tests. Though the officer ignored these requests, believing that Ratliff would have mentioned any injuries prior to the tests, it is very possible that Ratliff didn’t recognize the severity of his injuries until well after the crash. There are many stories of individuals who are seriously injured in accidents that don’t experience those injuries until sometime after the crash due to the adrenaline of the accident.
It remains to be seen what Ratliff’s blood test will reveal about this accident.
Source: KHOU, “Documents: Officer initially didn’t think Ratliff was intoxicated,” Josh Davis, Jan. 23, 2013
In our practice, we have worked with many people who have been pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving and have refused to take a breath test. You can learn more about these complex cases by visiting our website.