For the average motorist, the sight of flashing lights in the rearview mirror is not a welcome sight. At a bare minimum, those flashing lights will likely put you behind schedule and lead to an expensive traffic ticket. Worst case scenario, those flashing lights will lead to an investigation for driving under the influence (DUI) and your ultimate arrest. Like most people, you probably have the best of intentions and certainly do not plan to drive while under the influence; however, your best intentions may not be enough to prevent you from driving under the influence at some point. What should you do if you see those flashing lights in the mirror? In case you find yourself in just that situation in the future, an Omaha DUI attorney offers pointers for how to handle a DUI stop.
Does an Officer Need a Reason to Stop Me?
A law enforcement officer must have a valid, legal reason to conduct any traffic stop. Random stops are not legal. The one exception to this is scheduled DUI checkpoints. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the dangers from drunk driving outweigh the “degree of intrusion” of sobriety checkpoints and they are an exception to the search and seizure provisions of the U.S. Constitution. While random traffic stops are not legal, a pretextual stop is legal which is how many DUI investigations originate. A pretextual stop involves an officer pulling over a vehicle for a minor traffic infraction, such as failing to signal a lane change or a missing license plate light, when the officer really suspects something bigger is going on, such as driving under the influence. For the officer to detain you longer than it should reasonably take to effectuate the original reason for the stop (writing a ticket for the missing light, for instance) the officer must develop additional suspicion that a crime has occurred (DUI) to convert the traffic stop to a DUI investigation and continue your detention.
Tips for Handling a DUI Stop
Although you will certainly not plan to be the subject of a DUI stop, it is a good idea to plan how to handle the stop if you find yourself as the subject of one anyway. The following tips should help you to handle the stop as well as can be expected, protect your rights, and preserve any potential defenses:
- Remain calm. Have your license, insurance card, and registration ready. While it is perfectly acceptable to ask the officer why you were stopped, do not do so in a confrontational manner. Try to remember that in most cases, a law enforcement officer is simply doing his/her job.
- Answer questions carefully. If you have consumed any alcohol prior to getting behind the wheel, you may not be sure how to answer if the officer asks you if you have been drinking. It’s a tough spot. Lying to a police officer is never a good idea; however, if you are blatantly honest, you can almost count on going to jail. Sometimes, you can deflect and evade by answering the question with a question. Instead of answering directly, this is your opportunity to ask the officer why he/she stopped you instead.
- Politely decline to perform the field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are intended to help an officer determine if a motorist is driving under the influence; however, the directions are difficult to remember when sober and not standing on the side of the road being scrutinized by a police officer. In addition, whether you pass or fail is a subjective decision made by the officer. It is very rare for a motorist to pass the FSTs so if there is any doubt in your mind, do not agree to perform them. The results are not admissible in court anyway but can be used to provide probable cause for your arrest.
- Be ready to leave your vehicle. If the officer is undecided about arresting a motorist for DUI, one factor that can sway the officer one way or the other is whether there is another viable plan for the driver and vehicle. Walk home, call a friend, or call Uber if given the option to leave your vehicle but avoid an arrest.
Contact an Omaha DUI Attorney at Petersen Law Office
If you have been charged with driving under the influence in Nebraska, consult with an experienced Omaha DUI attorney as soon as possible. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case.