You’re driving along minding your own business. All of a sudden, you see flashing lights in your rearview mirror. The police want to investigate you. You’re wondering what to do when pulled over for a DUI.
The first step is to pull your vehicle over. Even if you’re a drunk driver or if you have an outstanding warrant, your best bet is to stop your vehicle. If you don’t, you can be charged with fleeing an officer or obstruction of justice. This charge is far worse than facing a drunk driving charge.
Pull over your vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so. Try to pull over in a lit area. You can turn on your hazard flashers to indicate that you’ve seen the police lights.
Try to stay calm. Don’t put your hands in your pockets or reach for the glove compartment. If it’s dark, you can turn on the inside lights in your car. The officer is going to ask to see your operator’s license and possibly your insurance, so you can start to look for that information. Make sure you tell the officer before you reach in the center console or the glove box.
Don’t Answer Questions
When you’re pulled over for a DUI, you have to provide law enforcement with your license and in some states, your vehicle insurance. That’s it. If the officer asks you where you’re coming from, you don’t have to answer. If they ask you how much you’ve had to drink, don’t answer the question.
Tell the officer that you politely decline to answer their questions. The police officer probably isn’t going to like this answer. Calmly tell them that you know your constitutional rights and that you’re not going to answer questions.
But Follow Directions
When you’re stopped for a DUI, you don’t have to talk to the police, but you do have to follow directions. If the police ask you to step out of your vehicle, do it. If they ask you to turn off your vehicle, do it.
The police might ask you to perform field sobriety tests. In this case, it’s best to cooperate. If the police have enough suspicion to ask you to perform field sobriety tests, they probably have enough suspicion to lawfully arrest you.
If you don’t do the field sobriety tests, you can bet that law enforcement will use it against you in court. However, many officers don’t properly administer field sobriety tests. Officers are supposed to use only a few, standardized field sobriety tests.
Many officers blatantly disregard this and they think they know better. Instead, they come up with their own tests that aren’t based in science. They might ask you to say your ABCs or tell you whether Mickey Mouse is a dog or a cat. Your answers to these questions have no scientific basis in answering the question of whether or not you’re too intoxicated to drive.
Your attorney knows all of this, and they can evaluate your case to see if law enforcement followed standardized field sobriety tests. If they didn’t, your attorney can have a lot of fun telling the jury what the officers did wrong when you were pulled over for a DUI. For now, just do the tests. What to do when you are stopped for drunk driving is to do what you’re told without answering any questions.
After the fact, your attorney can help you sort out if law enforcement violated your constitutional rights when you were stopped for a DUI. They can determine if the police stopped your vehicle without probable cause. They can help you argue that law enforcement didn’t have reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigation.
When you’re initially stopped, however, it’s best to follow police instructions. Don’t answer police questions, but if they ask you to perform field sobriety tests or take a breath test, your best bet is to do it. Your attorney can help you after the fact, but you don’t want to face additional charges by fighting with law enforcement.
If you have a camera, you’re welcome to record your encounter with the police. The police might not appreciate this, but it’s your right. If law enforcement violates your constitutional rights by taking your phone or even initiating physical contact with you, they might end up with their own criminal charges or the court might suppress evidence against you.
Cooperate With the Officer
If you fight with the law enforcement officer, you might find yourself charged with an additional crime. This is a far more serious charge than a first drunk driving offense. In most jurisdictions, refusing to obey a law enforcement officer’s lawful command is a felony.
When the police say that they’re going to arrest you, just let them do it. You have nothing to gain by trying to resist. Even if your arrest is unfair, do what you’re told and then contact your attorney.
Take the Chemical Test
The police might ask you to take a PBT by the side of the road. You can refuse, but it might be an additional civil infraction or even a misdemeanor. In most cases, your best bet is to take the PBT. Many jurisdictions don’t allow law enforcement to enter a PBT into evidence at trial. It’s only the citizen who can raise the issue of the PBT if it helps their defense.
After you’re arrested, what to do when pulled over for a DUI moves to the police station. The arresting officer might ask you to take a breath test. This one is a no-brainer: take the chemical test. What to do when you are stopped and asked to take a breathalyzer, intoxilyzer or datamaster test is very simple. The answer is that you always take the chemical test.
The reason for this is that all jurisdictions have what is called implied consent. By driving your vehicle on a public road, you’ve consented to take a breath test if you’re arrested for drunk driving. If you don’t take the chemical test, the result is an administrative revocation of your driver’s license. Sometimes, this revocation can be for a year.
This revocation stands even if you’re not charged with or convicted of drunk driving. Quite frankly, you have nothing to gain by refusing to take the chemical test. A breath test refusal is hard to appeal.
What’s worse, law enforcement can simply request a search warrant to draw your blood. That means a trip to the hospital, needles and even restraints if you refuse to cooperate. Just take the chemical test.
Request an Independent Test
In many states, you have a right to an independent test if you’re arrested for drunk driving. After the officers give you the breath test, you have a right to a chemical test of your choosing. This can be a blood, breath or urine test. In many jurisdictions, the police even have to drive you to the hospital or the testing agency of your choice to get the independent test.
If the police don’t do this, the court might throw out evidence against you or even tell the jury that the police violated your rights. If you don’t know where to start, ask for a phone book and call local alcohol testing agencies or hospitals until someone agrees to do a test. Then politely ask law enforcement to take you for the test. Even if they say no, you’ve already started preparing your defense.
Call an Attorney Right Away
When you’re stopped for a DUI, contact a local lawyer right away. Your attorney can go to work immediately to demand that law enforcement preserve evidence. They can also help you address your bond conditions to make sure that you can continue to work while your case pends in the court. Your attorney can prepare a motion to suppress evidence if the police violated your constitutional rights. They can help you make a game plan to exercise your rights and defend yourself to the fullest extent of the law.