As a DUI Lawyer, I am surprised at the confusion people have over what they must do in a police DUI encounter, and what they can choose to do. Upon asking my clients why they did this or that, they often respond, “Well, he is the police. I thought I had to do what he asked”. While there are certain scenarios where one must follow the police officer’s instructions, there are many other things that are optional.
Unfortunately, oftentimes the law does not require the police officer to inform you when something is optional. Therefore, the following is a general guide of what you must do during a police investigation, and what is merely optional in an investigation.
A preliminary note: This article was written by an Attorney in Florida, and is generally based upon the rules and regulations as they pertain to Florida. While there are often many similarities in the law, all States are different. If you have a specific legal questions, please ask an Attorney in your State for help. You likely know in advance when you will be drinking a driving. Of course, drinking and driving by itself is not illegal. At least not yet. Rather, the law is only broken if you drink to the point that your normal faculties are impaired by the booze. But if you will be drinking and driving, it would be wise to think about how you would handle a police encounter if you had one.
What you do during the DUI investigation can greatly increase your DUI Lawyer’s odds for obtaining a successful resolution to your case. Understand though, that if an Officer stops you and smells even a little bit of an alcoholic beverage on your breath, you will likely be detained for an investigation. Police officers, especially the ones who specialize in DUI detection, investigation, and arrests, will often take the safe path. The Officer will cart you to jail if it is a close call. Accordingly, it is vital to understand how to act when if you are stopped for a DUI. Knowing what is an option and what is required is imperative when being investigated for DUI.
DUI: The Requirements:
First and foremost: if the officer initiates his takedown lights, you must pull your car to the side of the road safely, quickly, and properly. If the officer is stopping you, even when he doesn’t have a good reason to do so, you must still pull your car over. It is for your DUI Attorney to litigate the merits of the stop at a later date. Of secondary importance: if the officer requests you exit your vehicle, you need to comply. The officer asked you to step out of your car do not do so, you may find yourself facing the barrel of the officer’s gun. Therefore, the officer asked you to step out of your car and walk to a particular place, do as he says: listen and obey his commands. Finally, and while not legally required, equally important: be nice and considerate and police to law enforcement. This is often called passing the attitude test. There are many different things that your DUI attorney can do to help the presentation of your DUI case. For example, your Attorney may be able to eliminate bad evidence in your case.
Your DUI attorney may be able to cast down on the breath machine. But your Lawyer cannot make you out to be a respectable nice guy when you are terrible to the cop on the DUI video. Being respectful to police, no matter how disrespectful they may treat you, will do wonders to help your defense attorney. Juries may convict purely because they consider you the bad guy, and the cop just doing his job. If you have a close case in the eyes of the prosecutor, he may very well decline to give me the reckless driving charge that you want because you were a jerk.
DUI: What You Can Choose to Do
Choose To Invoke Your Right To Remain Silent
The law does not require you to answer any questions the officer asks you about what you had to drink that night, when you woke up, where you are coming from, where you are going, how much you had to drink, or anything else that may incriminate you. If you feel that answering these questions might give evidence to the State that could be used to convict you, or if you are concerned that sound like a Drunk Driver as you speak, you can invoke your fifth amendment right and not speak to the cops. It’s important to note: not everything you say as a way of making it in the arresting officer’s reports.
Choose To Not Take The Field Sobriety Exercises
Clients are oftentimes surprised to find out they had the opportunity to refuse the field sobriety exercises. If you’ve been pulled over and detained for a DUI investigation, the investigating officer is going to ask you to submit field sobriety exercises. Often, these are the walk and turn test and the one legged stand, and perhaps the finger to nose. If this seems like a ridiculous thing to ask someone to do, I agree.
However, realize your performance on the exercises will likely be on video so police and prosecutors and judges can view your performance later. You do not have to take these tests. If you think that you will do terrible on these tests, either because of a medical condition, physical handicap, or because you plain just had too much to drink, you may decline. However, if you had too much to drink, please reread the fifth amendment part above.
Choose Not To Take The The Breath Machine
When a suspect is arrested the officer may transport him or her to the police station and question him or her if she would like to submit to a lawful test of the breathalyzer machine. Whether or not it is a good idea to take the breath test, is it case by case factual question. There is no answer for every situation. Realize that you have an absolute right to refuse this test. If you think based on what you’ve consumed during the day that you have no chance of passing the machine, consider choosing not to take the breath test machine test. Realize though, you risk having your license suspended 10 days after your arrest if you choose not to blow in the breath test. If it is the very first time that you refuse to loan a breathalyzer machine, your license will be suspended for one year. Luckily, after 30 days of hard time, you can go to the DMV and apply for a hardship in Florida. Every State is different; you will need to contact a Lawyer in your state to find out the specifics of the DMV penalties.
Hopefully this article will help you understand what you must do during a DUI investigation, and what you can choose to do when the cop stops you. You have a choice. Just remember, during the investigation, the law enforcement officer is not Judge or Jury. If it is a DUI investigation, he will likely arrest you, and let the Judge and Jury sort it out later. He will error on the side of caution. And further remember: he is trying to gather evidence against you. It is his job. Consider these thoughts, and act accordingly to give yourself the best case to win.