What to Do if You are Stopped For Impaired Driving/Drunk Driving
Recognize that initially the officer may only be stopping you for a traffic or safety violation. He may not know anything about the beers you had a half-hour or so ago. But sure enough, there’s the blue light in your rearview. You look down at the speedometer and you are going 60 mph in a 45 mph zone.
( CAVEAT: All legal advice depends on individual case facts. It is impossible to anticipate all factual situations that may occur. Below is a guideline based on generalized facts and circumstances and should not be taken as definitive advice for the reader under his or her circumstances.)
First of all, pull over in a safe area. If you think that you will have to drive a short distance to find such an area, turn on your flashers and reduce your speed. That should tell the officer that you know that he* is stopping you and that you are not trying to avoid him. You are just looking for a safe area in which to stop. If he gets impatient, or thinks otherwise, he will chirp the siren again.If he does so, go ahead and stop as safely as you can.
If you can do so without drawing attention, slightly open a window on each side of the car while the car is still moving to help vent the inside of any odors. But at least get the passenger side rolled back up before he gets out of his cruiser.
After you have pulled over and stopped, turn on the dome light if it is dark, put both hands on the wheel where the officer can see them, and turn the engine off. This will ease the officer’s stress of approaching your vehicle, and in turn, should make your interaction less stressful.
Wait until the officer asks for license and registration so that you are not reaching into the glove box as he is approaching the vehicle. Hopefully you have placed the registration and proof of insurance in a single envelope in a place where you can easily find it in the glove box… and you keep your license in the front of your wallet, always in the same place. That will save you from the officer’s testimony that you “fumbled for your license and registration,” proof that you are impaired, ya’ know.
You should be courteous always, but you do not have to engage in idle chit chat, or answer any of his questions. That opens you up to testimony about how you “had alcohol on your breath, mumbled, and were belligerent. Admit to nothing. License, registration, and proof of insurance. That’s it. Tough to do, but resist the urge. Any admission by you that you have consumed alcohol can be the basis for further investigation. In response to a question, don’t engage in “question ping-pong.” A simple and courteous “I have nothing to say about that” will do.
If the officer continues, he may ask you to step out of the car to perform some field sobriety tests, “and then you can be on your way.” DO comply with his direction to get out of the car. DO NOT comply with his request to perform those tests, including the roadside alco-sensor. Politely refuse.
At this point, the officer only has evidence of speeding, and perhaps the odor of alcohol (hopefully, mild). In order to go to the next step of a breath or blood test, the officer must determine that there is probable cause to first place you under arrest for impaired driving. ALTHOUGH THERE ARE LICENSE CONSEQUENCES TO REFUSING A BREATH OR BLOOD TEST, at least the state will not have a blood alcohol reading at that point. If you refuse a breath test, the officer will have to RE-READ your test rights in order to proceed to a blood test. If you refuse again, at least the officer will then have to convince a magistrate to issue a search warrant in order to get a blood sample. ASK TO SEE THE WARRANT. “It’s on the way,” or “the hospital has it” doesn’t suffice. Other than the requirement itself, lapse of time is in your favor.
Assuming that breath or blood is obtained, you will next be taken before a magistrate for booking and hopefully release. Although it is rarely done, magistrates can be called as witnesses also, so again, courtesy is the order of the day. The magistrate wasn’t there and he or she is just doing their job.
If you haven’t done so already, CALL YOUR LAWYER!!
*Reference to the officer is in the masculine only for the convenience of the writer and flow of the article, and is not intended in any way to imply that all officers are male.
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