Sunday, May 28, 2017

Top ten things to know if you're pulled over

  1. Pull over in the first well-lit area on the right-hand side of the road.
  2. Have your driver's license and proof of insurance ready.
  3. Be polite to the officer.
  4. Keep your hands in view and avoid sudden movements.
  5. Don't admit wrongdoing.
  6. Exit the car if and when instructed to do so.
  7. Don't take any tests.
  8. Don't give permission for any searches.
  9. Don't resist arrest (even if you didn't do anything wrong).
  10. If arrested, say "I invoke my right to remain silent and I want to talk to a lawyer.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

What to Do If You're Suspected of DUI

If you ever find yourself stopped by police late at night, the following may give you an idea of what to expect.

The Traffic Stop

Most DUI arrests start with the driver being pulled over for a traffic violation, such as speeding, rolling a stop sign, or weaving/crossing over a lane line. Sometimes the stop is based on an equipment violation, such as having a taillight or rear license plate lamp out, or because the officer sees an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror that he believes obstructs the driver's view of the road. An officer can even stop a car just because the driver or front seat passenger is not wearing his/her seatbelt. In each of these cases, the stop must be justified by a "reasonable suspicion" that the law is being violated.
Of course, not all DUIs start this way. Sometimes, a driver is in a crash, and the police suspect intoxication and begin a DUI investigation. Police also commonly set up roadblocks, or "roadside safety checks," to look for possibly impaired drivers. And there are also circumstances in which an officer may stop a car, or walk up to one already stopped, under what is known as the "community caretaking" function of police.

Initial Contact with Police

If you've ever been stopped for speeding, you know the routine: the officer walks up to your car, identifies himself, tells you why you were stopped, and asks for your license and proof of insurance. Most DUI investigations start the same way, especially if the reason for the stop doesn't involve a crash or "bad" driving (such as weaving). But if you're near a bar, your eyes are bloodshot, and your breath smells like beer, the officer will probably want to ask you some more questions. You don't have to answer these questions. Keep in mind that the officer may be wearing a wireless microphone, and anything you say may be recorded and preserved on the squad car's audio/video system.
Once you provide your license and insurance information, most officers will return to their car to check your license status and make sure there are no warrants for your arrest. If they don't suspect you of DUI, they'll probably return to your car, issue a ticket or warning, return your license and insurance, and send you on your way. But if they think you may be impaired, they'll probably ask you to step out of your car.

Field Tests

It is important to remember that, under the law, you DO have to exit your car if an officer instructs you to do so. If you refuse, you can be arrested for obstructing the police. However, this is the last thing you must do. You do NOT have to take any tests or answer any additional questions.
Of course, if you decide not to take any tests, the officer might arrest you, even if the evidence is weak. Many police officers would rather make a DUI arrest, even if it's later thrown out in court, than let someone go who might not be safe to drive. And no, they're not going to follow you home or let you call someone for a ride. Don't ask. Such requests can be viewed as admission that you shouldn't be driving.
Remember: if an officer is asking you to take tests, he or she already thinks you're impaired. Unless you are 100% sober, you will probably not change the officer's mind. Taking field tests will only provide more evidence that can later be used against you in court.
If you decide to take the tests, though, it is important that you follow the directions exactly. Because many squad cars now have digital video cameras, it is likely that a clear recording of your performance will be preserved as evidence. Any difficulties in following instructions may give the appearance that you are intoxicated.

Preliminary Breath Test (PBT)

If an officer suspects you've had too much to drink, he or she may also ask you to take a breath test on a handheld device at the scene of the stop, prior to making an arrest. Although the results of this test can't be used at trial on a DUI charge, they can be used in court to justify the officer's decision to arrest you, potentially making it difficult to challenge a license suspension. For this reason, you should never take any breath test unless you are very confident that you are far below a .08.

After the Arrest

If an officer decides to arrest you, you will probably be placed in handcuffs, at least temporarily. You should not resist an arrest, even if you disagree with the decision. The arrest can always be challenged in court. Resisting will not make an officer change his or her mind, and will probably result in additional charges.
If you are arrested for DUI, your vehicle will probably be towed. The police agency may conduct an "inventory" of your car before it is towed, to document the condition of the vehicle and note valuable contents. If illegal items are located during this inventory, additional charges may be filed against you.
The officer may also read you your "Miranda Rights" and attempt to ask you additional questions about your activities before you were stopped. You should politely tell the officer you wish to remain silent, and that you want to speak with your attorney before responding to any further questions. If you are taken to jail, remain awake and upright in the squad car while enroute to the jail, but avoid conversations with the officer. Again, remember that many DUI investigations are recorded from beginning to end.

Breath, Blood, or Urine Test

At some point after you are arrested, an officer will probably read you a document called the "Warning to Motorist." You will be warned that if you refuse to take a "chemical test," your license will be automatically suspended for a minimum of 12 months. If you take the test, but fail it, your license will be suspended for at least 6 months. Unlike other questions, you will not be able to consult with an attorney prior to making this decision.
Keep in mind that while the suspension is automatic, it can still be challenged in court. Your attorney can file a pleading contesting the suspension, and request a hearing at which a judge will decide if the suspension will stand or be "rescinded." This must be done quickly, though, because the suspension will automatically start on the 46th day unless it is rescinded by a judge.
Although the suspension is always longer if you refuse the test, you are likely better off refusing the test, and letting your attorney challenge the suspension, than taking the test and giving the prosecutor the evidence they need to convict you. The officer is allowed to choose which test or tests they will ask you to take. Because breath testing is simplest, most will only ask you to take a breath test, unless they believe that you may be impaired by drugs other than alcohol. Most of the time, the breath test is offered at the police station or jail, but a few officers have portable breath machines that can be used for this "evidentiary" test. Some of these portable machines look identical to a PBT, except that they are attached to a printer. Remember: any chemical test--whether breath, blood, or urine--after you are arrested can be used against you at trial.

The Next Day

If you are arrested for DUI, you will probably be taken to jail, and you may need to post bond to be released. Once you secure your release from jail, you should immediately contact an experienced DUI attorney. At Vig Law, we will take prompt action to preserve evidence and challenge your suspension as soon as you retain us.