Police Officers everywhere are putting an increased emphasis on DUI enforcement. As a result more and more people are being pulled over for minor traffic violations. Every year many people who felt they were perfectly fine to drive are arrested for DUI. The following is an explanation of a common sense way to conduct yourself if you have been pulled over and have been drinking.
The first thing you need to understand is that when a police officer stops a person who they suspect is drinking they are looking to see if they have probable cause to arrest for DUI. Namely, did the driver consume some alcohol or drugs and are they now impaired. Probable cause is based on everything the officer has observed including driving, physical appearance, admissions by the person and field sobriety tests among other things. Much of the information the officer uses to show probable cause is provided by the driver after they are pulled over so the most important thing to remember is don’t say or do anything to incriminate yourself.
A common mistake most people make who are arrested for DUI is to admit to drinking. Most police officers will ask to see a driver’s license and then ask if the person has been drinking. If the person makes an admission to any drinking whatsoever they have proof of consumption. Now all the officer needs for probable cause is evidence of impairment. When asked, most people say they have had two beers. The correct response is to politely state that you don’t want to answer any questions and ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says no, your attorney can then argue that you were constructively arrested without probable cause. You should never lie and or misstate the amount you had to drink. Instead be aware of your rights and decline to answer questions.
Another mistake many people make is to agree to do field sobriety tests. Once an officer has reason to believe a driver has been drinking they will normally order them out of the car to do field sobriety tests. These tests include the HGN (commonly known as the eye test), the Walk and Turn, and One Leg Stand. Field sobriety tests are the largest part of proving probable cause to arrest for DUI. You have no obligation to take these tests and need to be aware that these tests are subjective and many people would fail them under any circumstances. Officers usually don’t tell people that they don’t have to take these tests. Instead they just start giving them and begin with the HGN by moving a pen or their finger in front of the person’s eyes. If asked to do field sobriety tests, the best move is usually to politely state that you do not wish to take them.
The final thing to mention is that most modern police cars have video dash cameras and many officers wear body cameras as well. Be mindful that anything you say or do is being recorded. It is best to keep conversation to a minimum. A polite request to know why you were stopped and ask if you are free to leave is fine. You should never argue or become belligerent with the officer and avoid any emotional outbursts. It is best to produce your driver’s license when requested and promptly comply with instructions to exit your vehicle. If you then decline to answer any questions or take field sobriety tests and conduct yourself in a dignified manner there will be nothing on the video to incriminate you.
Knowing your rights if you are pulled over after drinking will put you in the best position for a favorable outcome. Hopefully the police will let you go, but If you are arrested you should immediately contact on attorney who specializes in DUI cases. If you followed the advice mentioned above your attorney has a much better chance of successfully defending you.