Police: Ward failed sobriety tests

| Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Weeks after Hines Ward's fancy footwork earned him the top spot on "Dancing With the Stars," the Steelers receiver couldn't walk a straight line in a field sobriety test for police outside Atlanta, a report released Monday states.

Ward, 35, repeatedly failed to keep his balance, swayed back and forth, missed the heel-to-toe connection, turned improperly and had to use his arms for balance during a one-leg stand after police in DeKalb County, Georgia, pulled him over about 2:30 a.m. Saturday, according to the report.

A portable breath test officers administered showed Ward's blood-alcohol content was .128 percent; the legal limit for driving in Georgia is .08 percent. Such tests are not admissible in court, lawyers said.

"The officer would only be able to say that the test showed the presence of alcohol but not specifically what the result was," said Atlanta DUI attorney Jim Paisley, who is not connected to the case.

Agent Andy Ree did not return a call seeking comment. On Saturday, he released a statement saying Ward "was not impaired by alcohol while driving."

Police said Ward refused to take further alcohol breath tests and was booked into the DeKalb County Jail at 3:41 a.m. Saturday. Authorities released him at 6:30 a.m. after he posted $1,300 bond.

A DeKalb County police officer pulled over Ward's 2009 Aston Martin when he saw the driver swerving and striking a curb. The officer smelled a "strong odor of an alcohol beverage" coming from Ward, who said he had been at a bar called Bottle Top in the Buckhead section of Atlanta, where he consumed two Corona beers, the last of which he drank at midnight. He said he was driving erratically because he dropped his phone.

Ward was driving with Cory Allen, a former teammate at the University of Georgia. Police turned over Ward's car to Allen when they arrested Ward.

The officer who initially pulled over Ward called a DUI Task Force officer to the scene, who performed the field sobriety tests, including a horizontal gaze evaluation. Ward failed all of the tests, the report states.

The "horizontal gaze and nystagmus" test -- in which an officer has a person follow a pen with his eyes -- is admissible in court in Georgia as long as a judge is satisfied that it was administered properly and the officer was adequately trained, said Atlanta DUI attorney Bob Chestney, who also is not involved in the case. The fact that a DUI Task Force officer performed Ward's test gives the results more weight, Chestney said. The patrol car's video camera also recorded the tests, but police declined to release the footage because the investigation is ongoing.

The officer read him the implied consent card, which is the contract anyone age 21 or older agrees to when they get a license, Chestney said. Essentially, a driver agrees if they are pulled over by an officer who believes they are impaired by alcohol, they will agree to provide an official breath alcohol sample at a police station or a blood sample at a medical facility, if requested.

The portable breath test performed in the field isn't as accurate as the breath tests given at police stations, said Pittsburgh DUI Attorney David J. Shrager, because the latter are subject to more calibration and regulation. Intoxilizer or Breathalyzer tests can deliver results of plus or minus 5 percent off the portable breath tests, Shrager said.

Because Ward refused the breath test, he may lose his Pennsylvania license for a year, Chestney said. He will face a hearing within the next 90 days where a judge will decide.

If Ward loses his Pennsylvania license he won't be able to drive in Georgia, where he also owns a home, said Pittsburgh defense attorney Patrick Thomassey.

"There are reciprocal agreements in all 50 states, so you can't just drive across the border and get a new license," Thomassey said.

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