Maybe you had a drink with dinner, or a few rounds but budgeted extra time to sober up, and you felt it was safe to drive yourself home. Unfortunately, before you get there, you’re pulled over. What should you do? What should you avoid saying or doing?
This is a situation thousands of Americans find themselves in every year, since there are more than 1.5 million DUI arrests every year. Most drivers have no idea what to do next, and the consequences of this uncertainty are severe.
Fortunately, with a bit of knowledge about DUIs, and some practical tips to lower your risk, you can take the steps necessary to protect yourself.
The Basics of DUI Charges
First, it’s essential to understand what a DUI charge actually is, and how it can apply to you. Driving under the influence can be treated as a misdemeanor or a felony charge in Indiana (though other states have different rules and regulations).
However, it’s necessary to note that drinking and driving is not technically a crime. Instead, you can only be convicted if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is shown to be higher than 0.08 percent, or if an officer can clearly demonstrate that your physical and cognitive abilities are sufficiently impaired to make driving unsafe (usually as a result of a field sobriety test).
Obviously, the best course of action is to avoid drinking and driving altogether. If you’ve consumed alcoholic beverages, it’s best to play it safe and get a ride from someone else or stay where you are for the night and sober up completely.
If you’re pulled over, make sure to follow these guidelines:
- Pull over immediately. It shouldn’t require an attorney to tell you that if you try to run away from the police, everything will turn out worse for you. Even if you don’t receive a DUI, you could still be charged for fleeing and/or resisting arrest. Instead, slow down and find the nearest safe spot to pull over.
- Stay in the car. Staying in the car is proper procedure after you’ve been pulled over. It’s going to make the officer more calm, and prevent you from appearing inebriated when you walk around. Turn off the ignition and put the keys in the passenger seat.
- Be polite. When you speak to the officer, be as polite as possible. This isn’t a legal requirement, but it will help you considerably. If you’re nice enough and cooperative enough, the officer may let you go with a warning (assuming you haven’t already engaged in reckless activity). Acting aggressive or superior is apt to make the officer more inclined to charge and/or arrest you.
- Follow instructions. Follow the officer’s instructions, whatever they are. He or she may ask questions, request specific documents or information, or instruct you to do things such as turn down the volume of your radio. Whatever they are, comply readily and fully; the last thing you want is to resist arrest.
- Admit some degree of uncertainty. The officer will likely ask you how much you’ve had to drink. You don’t want to lie here, but you may not want to admit exactly how many drinks you had. Instead, express a degree of uncertainty by saying, “I don’t remember exactly,” or “I had a glass of wine or two, but I’m not entirely sure.”
- Consider whether to take or refuse a BAC test. A BAC test will likely show the officer your exact blood alcohol level, and if it’s greater than 0.08 percent, that will mean a DUI charge. Consider carefully whether you want to submit to or refuse this test; refusing the test may involve strict consequences, but not inevitably. Similarly, just because you’ve tested over the legal limit for a DUI doesn’t mean you’ll be convicted; you could prove that the test was inconclusive or improperly conducted (if you have proper legal representation).
- Get as much information as possible. While you’re pulled over, try to get as much information as you can. Request the officer’s name and badge number, and try to recall the details of the encounter as accurately as possible. If you can, find out whether you’re being charged.
You should avoid committing the following dangerous mistakes. Do NOT:
- Volunteer to take a roadside test. A field sobriety test may prove or disprove that you’re unfit to drive. The officer may ask you to take a roadside test, and at that point, it’s in your best interest to comply. But don’t volunteer the idea. Remain in your car as long as possible.
- We’ve mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating. You may choose to decline a breathalyzer test in rare situations, but for the most part, any act of denial or resistance is going to make matters more complicated and difficult for you. Comply with everything you possibly can.
- Openly admit how much you were drinking. Compliance doesn’t necessitate full disclosure. If you’ve been drinking, do not readily admit to it, and certainly don’t openly admit to knowing exactly how many drinks you’ve consumed.
If You Get Arrested
Even if you follow the above steps, when you’ve been drinking and driving, there’s a good chance you could be arrested. If you are, do your best to remain calm.
There’s still no guarantee that you’ll end up being convicted, and any combative moves you make in front of the arresting officer(s) could be used against you to increase your punishment. Stay cooperative, and continue to observe the tips outlined above.
As soon as you can, contact a lawyer. You’ll need someone to represent you from the moment you’re arrested until your case is finished. The right attorney may be able to get you acquitted of all charges, depending on the circumstances, even after you’ve tested above the legal limit for alcohol consumption.
If you’re interested in securing a DUI lawyer, or you’re in need of one immediately, contact Rowdy Williams now!