You think back to the evening you’ve had: the company party, the open bar, a few drinks. You stopped drinking a little before you left, and don’t think that you drank too much, so you decide to drive home. You get in your car, head down the highway, then get a glimpse of red and blue flashing behind you. The siren calls out, and you start to panic. What did I do? How much did I have to drink? What happens if I get a DUI?
This is a scenario that is familiar to many. That first moment of hearing police sirens sends panic through most drivers, even if they haven’t been drinking. The most important thing to remember when you get pulled over is to handle yourself in a safe, calm manner, even if you do get arrested. This could affect everything when it comes to your interaction with an officer.
Safely Pull Over: The first step is to calmly and safely pull over to the shoulder of the road. Be sure to use the proper blinker and switch lanes when it is safe to do so. If you happen to be close to your home in a neighborhood, you can pull into your driveway, but be aware that it is still legal for an officer to make an arrest, even if you are on private property.
Find your License and Registration: Be sure to stay calm during this next step if you can’t easily locate your documents. Don’t start throwing papers and dumping out the middle console and emptying the glove box. This is suspicious behavior from an officer’s point of view. If you can’t find your documentation, let the cop know once they reach your window, and they will give you further instructions on what to do.
Don’t suspiciously cover up your breath with gum: If you detect alcohol on your breath (or even if you don’t), odds are the officer will too. Do not try to cover it up by getting a piece of gum or using breath spray. Officers will view this suspiciously like you are trying to hide the fact that you’ve been drinking (which you would be doing).
Step out of the vehicle if asked: If the officer detects that you’ve been drinking—either by your breath, your eyes, your speech, or the way that you appear or act—they might ask you to step out of your vehicle. Do not refuse this request, and do so without getting worked up.
Answer or decline to answer questions: It is best advised that you answer their questions in the same way—without argumentation. Questions like have you been drinking or how much alcohol have you had tonight will come up. You do, however, have the option to tell the officer (respectfully) that you decline to answer. If you are arrested, your answer to these questions can be held against you in a court.
Decline a Field Sobriety Test (FST): Presumably, the officer’s next course of action will be to request that you take a FST. These tests will involve things like touching your finger to your nose while closing your eyes, walking from heel to toe in a straight line, balancing on one foot, etc. There is a common misconception that these tests are mandatory, and the officer’s will not tell you otherwise. But the truth is, they are voluntary, and you should probably decline to participate. These tests are already difficult to complete even when sober, and you will be judged based on the single officer’s observation of you, rather than scientific evidence. These tests will just be used against you.
Vehicle Search: This step, if it happens, can have two different scenarios. If you have not yet been arrested, you can decline a vehicle search. The words that you need to say are: “I do not consent to the search of my vehicle.” However, if you HAVE been arrested, you do not have the right to refuse the search.
If you are arrested, take the breathalyzer test: If the officer has deemed you intoxicated, you will be arrested. During this time, the officer will offer you a choice between a breathalyzer test, a blood test, or a urine test. The choice is up to you, as no test is better than the other at determining your blood alcohol count. Keep in mind that you have to take this test. If you resist and refuse, the future DUI charge will most likely be worsened and you will have more severe penalties. Note: if you have not been arrested, you CAN refuse the roadside breathalyzer test. ONLY if you have not yet been arrested, as this would still qualify as a FST.
The most important thing to remember is to be polite, calm, and collected when you get pulled over after a night of drinking. If you have been arrested and have been charged with a DUI, hiring a DUI lawyer should be your next move. Liberty Law Center has some of the most professional DUI attorneys in Colorado Springs. Contact us today to start getting your life back.