If you are ever in a situation where you have been drinking and you get stopped by a police officer, there are specific steps that you should take to ensure your rights are protected. If you follow these steps, you will have a better chance of experiencing a positive result to your case.
1. Find a safe place to pull over.
As soon as a police officer decides to pull you over for drunk driving (DUI/DWI), he or she will begin making observations that will be used in a police report. Anything that the police officer documents in the report can be used in court, and could have a significant impact on the outcome of both your criminal trial and your DMV hearing. One of the first things an officer will notice is how you pull over. If you are erratic or pull over in an unsafe location, the officer will take note.
2. Don’t make any sudden movements.
Officers are not only trained to be cautious and protect citizens, but it is also in their best interest to protect themselves. They will always approach a vehicle from behind in order to have a clear view. This also makes it difficult for any person with foul intentions, because the driver of the stopped vehicle would have to turn completely around to shoot at or attack the officer. Do not make any sudden movements or exit your vehicle. Keep your hands on the wheel at all times.
3. Be polite.
The reason should be obvious; if you treat the police officer with respect, then you are far less likely to be arrested. However, if you are rude or belligerent, the officer is more likely to do everything in their power to get you convicted– sometimes even by writing a very incriminating police report. If the officer asks you to exit your vehicle, you must comply or face charges for resisting arrest.
4. Don’t answer any potentially incriminating questions, and don’t lie.
Law enforcement officers count on your anxiety in stressful situations such as this, because if you are anxious then you are more likely to incriminate yourself. While you must provide the officer with your name, license, and registration, you do not have to answer questions like, “Have you been drinking? And how much?” As a response, you may simply say “I’m sorry, but I’ve been advised not to answer any questions.”
If you have had only one or two drinks, say so. With very few exceptions, one or two drinks will not put you over the legal limit.
Lying, however, is never a good idea. If you answer a question, answer it truthfully. If you lie, and the officer knows it, the fact that you lied can be used against you in court.
5. Refuse a field sobriety test.
You are legally allowed to decline to perform a field sobriety test. Field sobriety tests are one of the most effective tools officers can use to collect evidence against you. However, these tests are not reliable indicators or intoxication, and they are entirely subjective. It is actually completely up to the officer whether you “pass” the field sobriety test.
6. Refuse a hand-held breathalyzer.
Roadside breathalyzers (otherwise known as Preliminary Alcohol Screening tests or PAS’s) are notoriously unreliable, and there are countless ways to skew their results. If you refuse a breathalyzer test, then you will most likely be brought to the police station in order to take a chemical test.
7. Take a chemical test at the police station.
You are legally obligated to take a chemical test at the police station. In most states, you can choose between a blood test or breath test. Many DUI lawyers advise people to take the breath tests because they’re more unreliable, so their validity can be more effectively attacked in court.
8. Once you’ve been released, write down everything that you can remember about the night.
The more notes you take about your arrest, the easier it will be for your attorney to fight the charges against you. Include in your notes things like the following.
- what you were doing and where you were going before you drove
- how much you had to drink
- how long after you were arrested
- how the officer behaved, any instructions he gave you
- what you said to the officer
- where you were pulled over
- when and if you were read your Miranda rights
- when you took the chemical test and how long it had been since your drank
Write down everything that you can think of, even if it doesn’t strike you as relevant.
9. Contact an attorney.
You both need and deserve an experienced DUI defense attorney who will fight for your rights. The single most important thing you can do for yourself is to find a qualified attorney who knows the ins and outs of DUI law. Contact the Remsen Family Law Firm to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your case.