Stopped for a DUI? What are my rights?
I have had a few drinks and I see red lights behind me…What are my rights? First remain calm and pull over at the first safe location – a parking spot works well. If you are on the phone tell the person what is happening if you trust them and hang up immediately. Turn off the radio and hopefully you know where your driver license insurance and registration are located. This is not the time to be searching as the officer may suspect you are hiding something! Wait until he approaches the vehicle keeping your hands on the steering wheel and the car in park. Don’t make any quick moves and respond to the officer concisely. Don’t ramble. Don’t make excuses. When requested hand the officer the requested documents. Don’t try to strike up a conversation. Many times you may just get the ticket for speeding or making an illegal turn. In any case do not argue with the officer! I have had many people get DUI’s because they argued over the speeding ticket! This is not the time or place for winning an argument. If the officer asks you to step out you need to comply. If you are requested to perform the field sobriety exercises you need to make a decision. Ask yourself, how much did I really have to drink? How experienced am I at drinking? Drinking often doesn’t change your metabolism it changes how sober you appear. If two people of equal size and weight drink 5 beers. The experienced drinker will appear sober the other may appear drunk but both will have the same blood alcohol content. This is what the police measure. If you know you are drunk, don’t perform the exercises. This is your right. Often people have disabilities that may prevent them from performing well. Fatigue, back issues, vertigo or even a cold may affect your abilities. You can refuse the Field Sobriety Exercises (FSE’s). If you think you are sober you should take the tests. Understand that most people do not do well. At the end of the FSE’s or your refusal the officer will make a decision to arrest you or to let you go. Either way SHUT UP! Talking is not good at this point. If you are being arrested inform the officer you want an attorney and wish to remain silent. THEN SHUT UP. I cannot express this enough. Almost all police cars have cameras monitoring you and most people decide to ramble. You may be in there for a while. The police officer is not going to let you go to the bathroom. It is not going to happen so don’t bother asking. About 30% of the people wet themselves as the police are not going to convenience you in any way. Yes the handcuffs are hurting and they are not loosening them either. The police are not going to let you use your phone, move your car so it will not get towed, or anything else that you may want. The answer is no. Once again shut up! Yes- getting arrested sucks! You will now have only one more choice to make. You must decide if you want to take the breathalyzer. If you know you are really drunk a refusal is better than a “double blow” which is being twice the limit. If you failed the FSE’s you will not pass the breathalyzer. If you are an experienced drinker and feel buzzed you will fail the breathalyzer. If you refuse your license will be suspended for one year but you most likely will be eligible for a hardship license. You will probably spend the night in jail – also not pleasant. It is cold, the food sucks and you are told what to do. Also never discuss your case with anyone on the phone, in your cell or in holding. The phones are monitored, and often other inmates may be undercover police officers. Within 24 hours you will see a judge. A public defender is generally appointed unless you tell them you are hiring an attorney. Either way if you are by yourself – plead NOT GUILTY! A bond will be set and you can have one of your friend’s bail you out of jail. Go home shower and call an attorney that you trust or has been referred to you. Advertising is great but a good website doesn’t mean anything. Good luck and I hope you will never have to use this information. The above information is provided as advice on your rights. It is not a “get out of jail card.” The best advice is not to drink and drive! – Gust G. Sarris, Esq.