You should never drink and drive. However, what you should do and what you actually do are not always in synch.
Maybe you had a work event where they served champagne. Maybe your date didn’t work out and you had to drive home alone after a couple of cocktails. Maybe you are on prescription drugs which make you a little loopy.
The fact is, at one time or another, many people have gotten behind the wheel of a car when they probably should not have. This puts them at risk of being pulled over on a DUI stop.
Because getting a DUI can affect your life in many negative ways, it is important to know what to do in case it ever happens to you. Here are six things you need to know about how to behave if the police stop you for DUI.
1. Pull Over Calmly.
Whether or not you have been drinking, when you see flashing blue and red lights in your rearview mirror, pull over. Never try to outrun the police, or evade them under any circumstances. That will only add to your troubles.
Once you have pulled over to the shoulder, stay in your car unless you are told to exit the vehicle. Do not make any sudden moves.
When a cop pulls over a car, they themselves are also at risk. Even the most routine traffic stop sometimes ends in tragedy. Put your hands on the wheel so they can see where they are and do not make any sudden moves.
2. Provide Your ID and Insurance Documents.
The policeman will ask for your driver’s license, car registration, and insurance card. The law requires that you show them to him.
If they are in the glove compartment, you should ask permission to lean over and retrieve them. Do not try to do it before the cop gets to your window.
In Louisiana under most circumstances, you are allowed to have a gun in the glove compartment of your vehicle. If you have a gun in the glove compartment where you keep your documents, you should inform the officer of this fact before opening up the compartment.
3. Be Polite.
If the police pull you over on suspicion of DUI or DWI, this is an excellent time to remember your manners. Be polite to the officer and show respect. It can actually make a difference.
Acting belligerent or defiant will surely work against you. Making jokes or treating the situation lightly will not help either.
However, being polite does not mean you should engage in unsolicited conversation. It also does not mean you have to answer all their questions.
4. Don’t Offer Information.
A trained patrolman will want to engage you in a dialogue about where you have been and what you have been doing. Their open-ended questions can lead to an unwitting confession which could be used against you.
They may ask you if you had anything to drink that evening, or where you are coming from. You do not have to answer (see below).
They may ask you if you know why they pulled you over. The correct answer would be, “I don’t know, officer.”
If there are other people in the car, they should keep quiet, too. The officer will be observing everyone’s conduct in order to find probable cause to search your vehicle. Acting rowdy or silly may give him a justifiable reason to proceed.
5. You Have the Right to Remain Silent.
The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution gives you the right to not give testimony against yourself. That means you cannot be required to answer a question if the response would jeopardize your legal rights. Therefore you do not have to answer the officer’s questions about where you are coming from, what you have been doing, or what you’ve been drinking.
Don’t expect to receive your Miranda warnings, however. When you are pulled over, you are detained but not in custody. That means whatever you say can be held against you, but they don’t have the obligation to tell you that yet.
It may be tempting to say,” I only had two drinks!” or “I had a beer an hour ago!” Don’t do it. Both of those statements may be seen as an admission of guilt.
Remain polite, but let the officer know that you are invoking your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. You can say you will not answer any questions unless you are in the presence of your lawyer.
You may be taken into custody at this point. However, it is imperative that you remain calm and continue to refrain from saying anything further.
6. You Can Refuse a Breathalyzer But You May Not Want To
A cop may ask that you take a Breathalyzer test to determine your blood alcohol level. You do have the right to refuse. However, this may not be the best way to proceed.
All fifty states have some version of an “Implied Consent” law, which means that you implicitly consent to have your license taken away if you refuse a breathalyzer. You give this implicit consent when you get your driver’s license in the first place.
In Louisiana, if you refuse to take the test, the state may suspend your license for one year, regardless of whether you were inebriated or not. If it happens again, the suspension may be increased to two years or more.
In other states, you may get your license revoked, be slapped with a hefty fine, or get put in jail.
DUI Stop: Know Your Rights
If the police pull you over under suspicion of driving under the influence, you are in a risky position where your license, reputation and other important aspects of your life may be affected. It is always advisable to act with courtesy and dignity if you have been detained on a DUI stop.
However, that does not mean you should do everything the police tell you to do. They are your adversary in this situation. Stay quiet and invoke your right to a lawyer.
For more information on what to do when faced with DUI or other criminal charges, check out our blog.