What to do if you are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving

by kpatel on September 27, 2013

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(US law & generally) I get asked this question all the time after people realize I am an Orange County DUI Lawyer, “hey Attorney Patel, what do I do if the cops pull me over after I’ve been drinking?” Well, as a preliminary matter, let’s set two things straight. It is not illegal to “drink and drive” in California. It is illegal to drive while “under the influence” of alcohol and/or drugs or drive with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more. Having said that, the wisest move is to simply not drive while you’re impaired by alcohol by designating a driver or finding some other safe alternative (taxi, motel).

Now, just say you have been drinking beers, say for a couple of hours, perhaps a quick shot in there too for good measure, and decide to drive home. You’re subsequently pulled over for speeding and the police officer smells alcohol on your breath. What do you do now? Here are my top 5 suggestions if you are pulled over by the police after you’ve been drinking and she suspects you may be DUI. Keep in mind, while this is written for people in California, most, if not all, of the information is applicable nationwide.

1) Be cooperative and respectful with the police officer(s)!!! I cannot emphasize this enough. Your level of cooperation, disruptive behavior, etc., will all likely be noted in the “Officer’s Narrative”, which in turn gets forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office if you are to be charged. Depending on a host of factors, the DA might be willing to reduce the charge or even dismiss it.

2) Now being cooperative with police does not entail that you should comply with all his “requests”. You have no legal obligation whatsoever to take the Field Sobriety Tests or FSTs. These tests are designed to “fail” you and have shaky scientific foundations at best. Remember, you DO NOT need to take the Field Sobriety Tests, but decline so respectfully.

3) Further, other than basic facts like your name, politely decline to answer questions about what you had to drink, when you were last drinking. Your answers will come back to haunt you. Invoke your 5th Amendment right to remain silent (very important).

4) Refuse to take the Preliminary Alcohol Screening Device (PAS) test. This is the hand-held device the police officer will use by the roadside. You DO NOT need to submit to this test. However, keep in mind, when taken to the police station (or hospital in some cases), YOU MUST take either a blood, breath, or urine test pursuant to implied consent laws of California. You refuse the police station chemical tests, you will not only automatically lose your license for one year, you will also still be charged with DUI pursuant to VC 23152(a) in the state of California.

5) Last, but most certainly not least, if charged with a DUI, strongly consider hiring a DUI Lawyer. Not only will an experienced DUI lawyer be in the best position to assess your case, he will be able to perhaps negotiate a reduced charge, reduced sentencing terms (i.e. no jail time) if you plead guilty, or perhaps even secure a dismissal or not guilty plea should your case go to trial. There are a myriad of defense strategies available and only an experienced DUI defense attorney will know what strategy to employ and what defenses might be available given the facts and circumstances of your case.

If you or a loved one has been arrested on suspicion of Driving Under the Influence, don’t wait too long to speak to a lawyer, you only have 10 days to request a DMV hearing in California (which can be used quite advantageously) which is the only way to prevent your license from automatic suspension.

The above article is not intended to provide legal advice or form an attorney client relationship.

Orange County DUI Attorney located in Irvine, CA. This office handles all aspects of DUI matters, as well as, criminal defense matters.

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