DUI Traffic Stop

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 What Should I Do if I Am Stopped by a Law Enforcement Officer?

Most individuals who operate motor vehicles have either been pulled over for a traffic violation or know someone who has. Traffic stops are very common on public roadways.

The majority of drivers will be subject to at least one traffic stop during their years of driving. If an individual is pulled over for a traffic violation, there are some tips they should follow to increase their chances of avoiding receiving a citation as well as to make the experience less stressful for both the driver and the officer, including:

  • Slowing down and safely pulling over as soon as the driver is able, to avoid being accused of evading the officer;
  • Remaining calm and remembering that it is possible to commit minor traffic violations;
  • Turning off the vehicle’s engine;
  • Keeping both hands in clear sight and, if possible, on the steering wheel;
  • Not exiting the vehicle unless the officer instructs the driver to do so;
  • Being courteous and not confrontational;
  • Complying with any requests from the officer to provide:
    • A driver’s license;
    • Registration; and
    • Proof of insurance;
  • Remaining polite;
  • Not volunteering information. If the driver is continually questioned, they may ask:
    • Am I under arrest?
    • Am I free to leave?
    • Ask to speak to an attorney and that they will not answer any questions until then;
  • Signing the ticket, which is typically not an admission of guilt but merely acknowledges receipt of the ticket; and
  • Asking for the name and badge number of the officer.

What Happens During a DUI Traffic Stop?

When a driver is pulled over by a law enforcement officer, the driver should cooperate with them and follow a few simple guidelines. If the traffic stop is the result of the officer’s suspicion of drunk driving, the officer will ask questions of the driver in order to elicit evidence of intoxication.

If the individual’s answers indicate the possibility that they are intoxicated, the officer will most likely administer a field sobriety test. It is important to remember that these tests are typically not required, although they may carry certain civil penalties.

Although an individual is not permitted to lie to a law enforcement officer, they do not have to provide any information that incriminates them and may invoke their right to remain silent and their right to counsel.

What Happens After a Driver Submits to Field Sobriety Tests?

It is important to note that field sobriety tests rarely ever help an individual’s case. However, if the driver does submit to the test and the officer concludes that the driver is intoxicated based upon the results of the tests, the officer will usually administer a preliminary breath test using a portable breathalyzer machine.

These portable breathalyzer tests are often inaccurate and unreliable. Therefore, if a driver fails the breathalyzer test, the officer may take the driver to a medical facility to administer a blood test or urine test to provide stronger evidence of intoxication.

It is important to note that these tests are typically voluntary and, in some states, including New York, are not admissible in court. The refusal to submit to a roadside breathalyzer test may be admissible in court.

However, in some states, such as Florida, the refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test will result in an automatic suspension of the individual’s driver’s license.

When Can the Driver Be Arrested?

A law enforcement officer may arrest a driver if probable cause exists to believe that a driver is impaired. Whether a driver shows signs of intoxication is subjective and almost impossible to challenge after an arrest.

Once a driver is arrested, depending upon the state, the law enforcement officer may confiscate their driver’s license and take them to the police station. The individual will be informed that law enforcement has the right to conduct blood, urine, and breath tests to confirm intoxication.

These are known as implied consent laws, which provide that a driver is required to submit to testing, and there are penalties in each state for refusal. If a law enforcement officer fails to read these rights, the individual may be able to challenge penalties that result from the refusal to submit to testing.

In some states, if the individual refuses the testing, they will be confined for 24 hours. If they submit to breath testing, a breathalyzer test will be administered, which is admissible in court.

Should I Ask for a Lawyer When Stopped for DUI?

Yes, it is important to request a lawyer if an individual is charged with driving under the influence (DUI). Once a law enforcement officer turns on their blue lights to pull over a vehicle, that driver is considered to be in custody and is not permitted to leave until the stop is complete.

This is why it is a crime, attempting to elude, not to pull over for law enforcement. Although the individual has the right to speak with an attorney, they will likely not be afforded the opportunity to do so until the traffic stop has concluded and they are transported to the police station.

In other words, the officer does not have to stop conducting the traffic stop in order to allow the driver to contact their attorney. An individual does have the right to refuse to answer questions that may incriminate them, such as how much alcohol they consumed.

After the individual is arrested, they will be given the opportunity to meet with an attorney who will provide advice regarding how to respond to questions from law enforcement. It is important to be aware that field sobriety tests are voluntary.

Law enforcement officers may also use other means of identifying intoxication, such as:

  • Pupil dilation;
  • Bloodshot eyes;
  • Slurred speech; and
  • Perspiration.

However, there may be consequences for the refusal to submit to field sobriety testing. If an individual refuses, they can be arrested based on the officer’s suspicion that they are intoxicated.

The individual will be asked to submit to testing to determine their Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). If an individual refuses the BAC testing, they may be subject to incarceration and charged with driving under the influence.

If a driver is unconscious, testing may be done to determine their BAC. When an individual operates a motor vehicle, they are presumed to have given implied consent to the testing as described above as a condition of having their driver’s license.

Therefore, in some cases, the refusal to take the breathalyzer test may result in automatic license suspension. It is always in an individual’s best interest to be as polite as possible but always keep in mind that the law enforcement officer is searching for evidence against them.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

It is essential to have the assistance of a DUI lawyer for any issues, questions, or concerns you may have related to a charge of drunk driving. The laws governing drunk driving are always evolving and are very complex.

In addition, the processes which are involved in drunk driving criminal charges may vary from state to state. Your lawyer can advise you of your rights and the admissibility of any tests.

Your lawyer can also assist you with presenting any available DUI/DWI defenses and can help you get your driver’s license back.

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