No one wants to be pulled over, especially for drunk driving, but knowing what to do during a DUI traffic stop can make all the difference in your driving under the influence case later on. While most people want to get back on the road as soon as possible after they have been stopped by an officer, if you were drinking prior to driving, it is more important to protect your rights and reduce the evidence against you than it is to answer the officer’s questions to speed up the process. Remember that anything you say can be used as evidence against you later, so if you are pulled over after drinking or using any type of drug (including legal medications that may impact your ability to drive, follow these tips.
Know Your Rights
If you have been pulled over and the officer suspects you have been driving drunk, your best defense is a thorough knowledge of the law. By invoking your rights during an arrest, you will minimize the evidence against you in court, making your case that much easier for your drunk driving lawyer to fight.
You Have the Right to Remain Silent
While you should always be polite to the officer, never provide more information then you are legally required to give. You must roll down the window a few inches in order to be able to speak with the officer and give him your driver’s license and insurance cards. When asked to do so, you must provide information regarding your identity, which simply means telling him your name, address and nothing more.
You are not required to provide any information regarding where you have been, where you are going and whether or not you have been drinking. Saying that you are on prescription drugs will only be providing the officer with a reason to suspect you are driving under the influence, which will typically provide him grounds to search your car and arrest you.
After offering your license and proof of insurance, tell the officer that you are invoking your Fifth Amendment right to silence. Never answer questions about where you were, where you were going or whether you have been drinking.
You Are Not Required to Take Certain Tests
When the officer suspects you have been drinking, he may ask you to perform field sobriety tests or to submit to a preliminary alcohol screening device. It is important to know that unless you are under 21, these tests are completely optional and field sobriety tests are optional even for minors. You have the right to refuse to take these tests and should refuse to take them unless you know for a fact that you have no alcohol or drugs in your system. These tests are designed solely to provide the police with more evidence to use against you in a DUI case and taking them can make your case much harder for your lawyer.
Know When to Cooperate
While you can be guarded about saying more than necessary, it is important to follow the police officer’s instructions as much as possible, particularly when it comes to where and when to pull over your car, though you can wait to find a safe place to stop if you are in a dangerous area where it is not safe to pull off of the road. If you fail to follow an officer’s instructions or pull over in a dangerous area, the prosecution will claim it serves as evidence of your impaired thinking. Do not get out of the car unless the police officer asks you to.
You Must Submit to a Chemical BAC Test
Submitting to a breathalyzer or blood test is not optional under California state laws. The implied consent law says you must choose one or the other. If you refuse, the police officers will get a search warrant for your blood and you will face a one year license suspension for a first DUI. Additionally, the prosecutors will charge you with a refusal to take a chemical test, which carries mandatory jail time.
But You Can Choose the Test
While it is true you will go to jail if you choose blood over breath, most people are still going to be arrested and taken to jail after the breath result, so this shouldn’t be the main basis for your decision.
Instead of concerning yourself with how quickly you will be able to get back on the road, think about the pros and cons of each type of test. The blood test takes longer because a phlebotomist must be called so the result is likely to be lower and these tests also allow for a stored sample that can be retested by your attorney later. On the other hand, there are also more legal challenges to be made later by your lawyer to a blood test than over a breath sample.
Write Down Every Detail
After the officers release you, take your time to write down every possible detail related to your DUI traffic stop. Try to remember everything the police officer said to you, every step of the chemical DUI test and every other bit of information you can recall because even the smallest detail could make a major detail in your case. Don’t leave out a single thing that you may remember about the incident.
Many attorneys are able to successfully fight DUI charges by showing the officers lacked probable cause when they made the traffic stop or by proving that the blood test or breathalyzer was not performed properly.
Call an Attorney As Soon As Possible
You only have ten days to file for a license suspension hearing with the DMV, so it is important you call a few attorneys immediately after your arrest. Spend some time finding the right lawyer for your case. And don’t miss the opportunity to schedule your hearing as not only allows you a chance to protect your license, but it also allows you and your lawyer an opportunity to review and question the evidence against you. The experience serves as a sort of mini-trial that can make all the difference when it comes to preparing for the real trial.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming these charges aren’t serious. A DUI is a misdemeanor charge that will remain on your criminal record. It will result in the loss of your license, major fines and you could even be incarcerated for drunk driving.
Attorney Peter Liss has over 35 years experience fighting DUI charges and and he can help you too. Please contact his offices by calling (760) 643-4050 to request a free consultation.