DUI stands for Driving under the Influence. It is a serious criminal offense with several long-term consequences.
Most DUIs are misdemeanors, but if a crash results, the party will likely be charged with a felony DUI offense. Felony DUIs result from drivers who flee accident scenes or cause serious injury or death as a result of a crash they caused due to drinking.
Steps to Follow If Stopped on Suspicion of a DUI
There are some prudent steps that DUI attorneys advise if you are pulled over by police and placed under arrest for DUI:
- Identify a Safe Place to Pull Over. The arresting officer is observing how you pull over, and if you are arrested for a DUI, the officer’s notes will become part of your file. By not driving erratically, pulling over to a safe location, and by not slowing down too hastily, someone who is stopped on suspicion of a DUI is not doing the officer any favors in terms of incriminating observations.
- Do Not Make Sudden Movements. Officers will be cautious, alert, and seeking to protect themselves. They will approach your car from behind to have a clear view. Anyone who has been pulled over should hands on the steering wheel in such a way that is clearly visible, and refrain from sudden or hasty movements. This general rule is more true in a DUI setting, where it is likely late at night and officer safety is of a greater concern.
- Behave Politely. If you treat the arresting officer with respect and politeness, you may not ultimately be arrested. DUIs are a long, complicated process, and also subject to a lot of discretion on behalf of the officer who essentially investigating you on their suspicions of drunk driving. By not behaving rudely or with hostility, someone pulled over for a DUI may be doing themselves – and the officer – a big favor by avoiding the need to formally arrest anyone. Furthermore, it is smart to never resist instructions from the police, but be aware that often times, field sobriety tests are voluntary, so a driver may simply (but politely) decline to perform them.
- Do Not Answer Incriminating Questions. All you are required to do is identify yourself to the officer and demonstrate the car is legally allowed to be on the road. This means once your hand over your licenses and registration, as well as perhaps proof of insurance, you do not need to communicate any more with the officers. Thus, do not to answer any questions from police that may incriminate you. It is just as important that you do not tell a lie. In stressful situations, police know that drivers are likely to incriminate themselves. This means that they may ask whether you have been drinking and, if so, how much. You can refuse such questions. The best response is something like, “Due respect, officer, but I do not wish and am not required to answer any questions. Am I free to go?” If you chose to answer any questions, answer them honestly because lies may be used against you in court.
- Refuse Field Sobriety Tests and Hand-Held Breathalyzer Tests. As a general matter, there is no legal requirement to perform a field sobriety test. The tests are very powerful yet subjective tools for the officer to use in order to compile evidence against you. Depending on the state, refusing a roadside breathalyzer may result in a temporary suspension of your license. However, if you are in fact intoxicated, that point is irrelevant, and a DUI conviction will carry weightier penalties. It is best to take a chemical test at the police station, and to politely let the officer know that you will gladly do so in the event of an arrest for a DUI.
- Write Down Notes. Writing down everything you can recall will help formulate a defense, if need be. Start with what you were doing before you drove and up through the point of being pulled over, arrested, and any tests you submitted to.
Seek Legal Advice
While the steps above are helpful in for handling interactions with the police, the plain and simple truth is that if you are going to be arrested for a DUI, you will be. There is no sure-fire way to avoid criminal liability for a DUI without the assistance of an experienced attorney. A local DUI/DWI lawyer can explain to you your rights, and help you formulate a defense.