Like most motorists, one thing you dread is looking in the rearview mirror while driving and seeing flashing lights right behind your vehicle. While this might be a major annoyance on any other day, if you had a beer, a glass or wine, or a cocktail before getting behind the wheel the sigh of those lights can be downright terrifying. In those few seconds it takes you to pull over to the side of the road and turn off your vehicle a myriad of negative images may flash through your mind, including a jail cell, the loss of your job, and the loss if your driving privileges if you are convicted for driving under the influence, or DUI. What you need to be concentrating on, however, if your DUI defense. Whether you realize it or not, your DUI defense starts during your DUI stop. Everything you do from the moment you see the lights in your rearview mirror until the time you are dropped off at the county jail is important and can help, or hinder, your defense. What can you do to help your DUI defense? The following tips are a good place to start.
- Do not panic. When people panic they tend to do things that increase the odds of going to jail.
- Do not hesitate to pull over. Even driving an extra block while deciding how to handle the situation could be viewed as a sign of your intoxication – or worse, that you are fleeing.
- Do not be disrespectful to the officer. First, a law enforcement officer is just doing his/her job. Second, the arresting officer has a good deal of discretion in how a DUI stop is handled, how it is concluded, and what the final disposition of the case is. Making an enemy of the officer, or even standing out in his/her mind, is unlikely to help your situation.
- Do not admit to consuming alcohol. This one is a bit tricky. Don’t lie to the officer; however, don’t admit to drinking alcohol before you got behind the wheel either. When a law enforcement officer hears a motorist say “I had one beer/glass of wine with dinner” the officer automatically assumes you mean “I had a six pack/bottle of wine.” Avoid admitting that you consumed any alcohol if at all possible.
- Do not take the field sobriety tests (FSTs) if you cannot pass them. You know how intoxicated you are. Don’t set yourself up for failure.
- Lay the groundwork for an excuse for failing the FSTs. If you have a physical injury, medical issue, or even notice that the ground is uneven, be sure to mention it several times during the FSTs in case the officer claims you failed them.
- Do not argue if the officer places you under arrest. If the officer begins to place you under arrest his/her mind is already made up – arguing can only make your situation worse. Let your attorney argue for you down the road.
- Mention any problems you have taking the breath test. For example, if you have breathing problems, are suffering from bronchitis at the time, or notice any other problem taking the breath test, be sure to mention it because it could be the basis for a defense to the results.
- Pay attention throughout the stop. There are very specific procedures a law enforcement officer is supposed to use during the different stages of a DUI stop. To the extent possible, pay attention to everything the officer says and does in case those procedures are not followed. Specifically, pay attention to how long the stop takes and what time you were pulled over and what time you are given the breath tests.
By remaining aware, and heading the above tips, you can get your DUI defense going while you are actually going through the stop itself. Not only will your DUI defense attorney appreciate your efforts, but they could significantly increase your chances of avoiding a conviction.