For a motorist, the sight of flashing lights in the rear view mirror is rarely a welcome sight. At best, it likely means you will be delayed for an unknown amount of time and eventually be issued a traffic ticket – or a warning if you are lucky. At worst, the flashing lights could result in a trip to jail if you have been drinking. The best way to avoid finding yourself in the position of having to worry whether a traffic stop could result in an arrest is to refrain from getting behind the wheel if you have been drinking. Although we all know that, we are also all capable of making a bad judgment call and getting behind the wheel after having a glass or two of wine or a couple of beers. If you find yourself being pulled over, and you have consumed alcohol, try to remember the following advice from a DUI defense lawyer.
Know the Law
First and foremost, you should know what the Nebraska drinking and driving law actually says. Nebraska Revised Statute § 60-6,196 reads as follows:
(1) It shall be unlawful for any person to operate or be in the actual physical control of any motor vehicle:
(a) While under the influence of alcoholic liquor or of any drug;
(b) When such person has a concentration of eight-hundredths of one gram or more by weight of alcohol per one hundred milliliters of his or her blood; or
(c) When such person has a concentration of eight-hundredths of one gram or more by weight of alcohol per two hundred ten liters of his or her breath.
There are two important points you need to take away from your reading of the statute. First, you can be charged and convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) for being under the influence of drugs as well as alcohol. Second, and contrary to what most people believe, it is not necessary to have the results of a chemical test to secure a conviction for DUI. The statute also makes it illegal to be “under the influence.”
Remain Calm and Follow Instructions
The worst thing you can do when a law enforcement officer is attempting to make a traffic stop is panic. Slow down and pull over as soon as it is safe to do so. Do not try and drink or eat anything at the last minute in the hope that it will mask the alcohol on your breath. Sudden moves can be seen as threatening to a police officer. In addition, people often drink or eat things thinking it will help when, in reality, they actually made the situation worse by ingesting more alcohol they didn’t know was in the drink/food.
Be Respectful, But Do Not Make Admissions
The officer will start by asking you for your license and registration, which you should already have ready if possible. Politely ask the officer why you were stopped. Contrary to popular belief, a law enforcement officer must have a valid legal reason for conducting a traffic stop. Fishing for drunk drivers is not a valid reason. Eventually, the officer will ask you something along the lines of “Have you had anything to drink this evening?” Resist the urge to say “just one drink.” Admitting you consumed any alcohol prior to driving is a surefire ticket to jail. On the other hand, it is not a good idea to outright lie to a police officer either. If possible, deflect the question by asking your own or simply telling the officer your attorney advised you to never answer questions such as that.
Decline the Field Sobriety Tests
Next, you will be asked to perform a series of field sobriety tests (FSTs). These tests are intended to test your memory, balance, and coordination — all of which can be signs of intoxication. You can decline to perform the FSTs. Whether a suspect passes or fails the FSTs is subjectively determined by the officer administering the tests. Not surprisingly, very few people ever pass them. Even under perfect conditions they can be difficult to complete. On the side of the road, at night (often), when you are nervous hardly counts as ideal conditions. Because you are almost assured of failing, it is usually best to decline.
If you have been charged with driving under the influence, or DUI, in Nebraska, contact the Petersen Law Office 24 hours a day at 402-513-2180 to discuss your case with an experienced Omaha DUI attorney.