What Should I do if I Get Pulled Over by the Police for Suspected DUI?
If you are reading this article, there is a chance that you have already been arrested for a DUI or know someone who has.
However, if you are curious about the best course of action when pulled over by the police, read on, you have come to the right place.
Obviously it is inconvenient to be pulled over by the police and in some situations you may believe the stop is unwarranted…nevertheless, it is important to be polite and respectful of the officer(s) conducting the stop. (This is just good advice in general for all interaction with law enforcement).
In many cases, the officer will be recording the interaction, or at a minimum, she will include commentary regarding your behavior in the arrest report (if you are taken into custody).
Turn the radio off and if you feel compelled to record the stop, you may do so, but do not hold anything in your hand while the officer is conducting the traffic stop.
Prepare for the Stop
Once you see lights in your rearview mirror, prepare for the stop by rolling down your windows and locating your license and insurance (ideally you already have them handy, if not, do not start reaching around wildly looking for them. That is suspicious).
Even if you have only had one beer, your breath may still smell of alcohol, and the scent is likely present in the small cabin of your vehicle.
Rolling down your windows reduces the chance that the officer smells alcohol. You should also locate your license and registration and have it in hand before the officer approaches your vehicle.
As soon as you are stopped, the officer is looking for indications that you are intoxicated, and one of those indicators is fumbling with your purse or wallet when you are locating documents.
When pulling over, be sure to use traffic signals and follow all traffic laws to avoid compounding your suspected charges.
Although it is advisable to be polite to the police, you should not answer questions if possible.
Officers will ask you where you were, whether you were drinking, how much you were drinking, etc.
While there are some ways to answer these questions which may ultimately help your case, the best practice is to state “I politely decline to answer.”
While this may go against your instinct, especially if you are not intoxicated and think you can talk your way out of the situation, chances are the police already have reason to suspect you are intoxicated.
Answering questions will only assist them in building a case against you. There is no penalty for refusing police questioning, and they cannot force you to answer questions about your whereabouts or behavior before the stop.
If pressed, you can always provide your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance followed by “I wish to remain silent and I want my lawyer present.”
You do not have the right in California to have a lawyer intervene in the middle of a traffic or DUI stop, but it never hurts to assert your rights immediately.
Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests are conducted during the stop if the officer believes you may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The tests vary, and the officer is looking for indicators of intoxication such as poor balance, inattentiveness, or lack of fine motor skills.
Your performance on these tests is likely being recorded by the officer.
In most cases it is in your best interest to do decline to do these tests, as they are optional.
You may later be forced to provide a specimen (blood, breath or urine test) if you are arrested and the police obtain a warrant.
On the side of the road, the police may ask you to take a PAS test (portable breath test).
If you are 21 or over, you may decline this test without the case being considered a “refusal,” as they can still require you to submit a specimen at the police station.
Specimen tests are samples of blood, breath or urine.
If you are arrested and asked to provide a specimen, you may refuse to do so but you will be penalized.
California’s vehicle code states “implied consent” – meaning that by driving in the state, you have consented to the specimen tests if they are requested.
If you refuse to provide a sample, your license is automatically suspended for one year (if this is your first offense), or 2 years if this is your second refusal or if you have been convicted of DUI or reckless driving in the last 10 years.
While you may refuse to take the test, it does not guarantee that you will not be convicted for DUI, and can actually make the consequences worse.
The officer can testify to your performance on field sobriety tests and your demeanor, and the refusal to take the test can be used against you as an indicator that you were intoxicated at the time of the arrest.
Searching Your Vehicle
Unless you are under arrest, the police may not search your vehicle.
If they ask to search your vehicle, politely refuse by saying “Officer, I do not consent to a search, I want my lawyer.”
Once you are in custody, however, the police have the right to look through your vehicle and have it towed, this is known as a “search incident to arrest.”
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