The following article addresses some of the questions common to D.U.I. arrests and suggests practical advice on how to handle police encounters. Depending on the circumstances under which you are stopped or detained by law enforcement, informed responses to police questioning may help minimize the impact of or even likelihood of an arrest and subsequent D.U.I. conviction.
THE USUAL SCENARIO
While driving home after having a few drinks, you are pulled over because you weren’t paying attention to your driving. Although you feel fine and thought you were driving fine, you are informed by Officer Johnny Law that you were weaving or driving in a serpentine manner. He starts asking very innocent questions like are you taking any medications, are you diabetic, etc. Then, the police officer requests or tells you to perform field sobriety tests. Although you think you perform satisfactorily, you are placed under arrest for driving under the influence.
THE INVESTIGATIVE STOP
Any violation of the California Vehicle Code gives police officers the right to pull you over, including but not limited to, speeding, registration, or driving too slowly. Moreover, some driving behaviors, although not in violation of the vehicle code, provides law enforcement the “reasonable suspicion” required by law to make an investigative stop, such as, weaving within the lane or driving in an erratic manner (i.e. driving around in circles.)
Once that red light goes on informing you to pull over, you should immediately signal to the right and carefully pull over completely off the road when safe to do so. Remember these tips:
1) DO NOT BE CONFRONTATIONAL since that type of conduct will not be taken well by a police officer, unless you like hitting the officer’s fist with your face.
2) REQUEST THAT THE OFFICER WRITE DOWN the reasons for stopping you, perhaps on the ticket that he will issue you.
3) POLITELY EXPLAIN to the officer(s) why you were driving the way you were, provided that the reason wasn’t you were drunk.
DETENTIONS AND FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS
If the officer sees “objective signs of intoxication,” he may ask you to step out of the vehicle and perform field sobriety tests. Signs of intoxication are: bloodshot, watery eyes, unsteady gait, slurred speech, and the odor of alcohol. Here are the tips during your detention and field sobriety testing.
4) BE HONEST and tell him the truth about when and how much you had been drinking. Most people assume that it is better to have had your last drink “a couple of hours ago.” Actually, downing a shot just before driving may provide you with the Rising Blood Alcohol defense. Furthermore, it is always difficult to later explain why you lied to the police officer.
5) YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO PERFORM field sobriety tests, including the handheld breath testing device. Field sobriety tests are not designed for you to pass or fail. It is just a way for the police officers to get additional evidence on your intoxication level. I rarely hear of anyone passing the field sobriety tests and being allowed to leave. The reason for this is that the officer tells you to do certain coordination tests, but is actually looking for signs of intoxication that he doesn’t tell you about.
6) GENERALLY YOU WILL NOT BE PENALIZED if you politely decline to take the field sobriety tests. Although the officer may entice or scare you into taking them by stating that if he or she doesn’t see you do these tests, then he or she would have to arrest you based on what they have seen so far. If you have gotten this far in your encounter with the police, chances are the officer isn’t going to leave without an arrest being made.
ARREST AND IMPLIED CONSENT
The last phase of your D.U.I. encounter is the arrest. Once arrested, you must submit to a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol level or your license will be suspended for one year. Remember that if you are arrested and your license is taken away, you have only 10 days to request a hearing from the D.M.V. to contest the license suspension.
It is probably a good idea to retain the services of an experienced attorney who practices D.U.I. law on a regular basis. The law is complex and you need competent representation. A good attorney is one that will provide individual attention, thoroughly review and prepare your case, and promptly answer any questions that you may have. Remember these tips when trying to find an attorney.
7) EXPERIENCE IN THIS AREA OF LAW is essential to receiving good representation. Although a novice to this area of law may do a good job on your case, chances are an experienced attorney would do even better.
8) BE WARY of the attorney who doesn’t take the time to carefully listen to you when you recount the facts of your case, but states that he or she will aggressively fight for you. How can an attorney effectively represent you without first listening to you.
9) BE SURE TO ASK your potential attorney during your initial consultation whether or not you have a good case (one that will be dismissed without proceeding to trial). And make sure you get a direct answer. I know you may not like to hear this, but you may have a “loser” case. If so, why spend enormous amounts in legal fees if your case will end up with the same disposition? Even the best D.U.I. attorneys can only do so much for a “loser” case.
10) BRING A COPY OF THE POLICE REPORT with you, if possible, to the interview or write everything down that happened that night as soon as possible so that you can tell your potential attorney all of the facts necessary to ensure the best defense.
LAST AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, REMEMBER THAT WHOMEVER YOU DECIDE TO HIRE, THAT ATTORNEY WORKS FOR YOU. WOULD YOU EXPECT YOUR EMPLOYEE TO CALL YOU BACK PROMPTLY AND ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS THAT YOU MAY HAVE?
April 21, 2003 by Quincy Hoang
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