What should I do when stopped for DUI?
Being a DUI attorney means that I have the privilege of defending young professionals and college students; good people who are charged with a crime. It also means that I will inevitably be asked the magic question: “should I blow?” Of course what they are referring to is whether they should take the breath test when they are arrested for drunk driving.
My answer is ‘it depends, but generally, no’ because by submitting to a breath test you will be giving the State Attorney’s Office and the arresting officer evidence to use against you.
Here’s what you should do when stopped for DUI:
- Have your documents (license, insurance and registration) ready to give to the officer. Fumbling while you search to locate these documents will lead to the officer gathering evidence of impairment to use against you as they build their DUI case.
- Be respectful, say as little as possible and do not admit to drinking (or using drugs). Answer swiftly and politely when the officer asks for your name and basic information. Do not admit to drinking or where you are coming from. You have the right to remain silent, use it! There is no such thing as “talking your way out of it.” The officer likely already feels that you are under the influence and has every intention of arresting you for DUI. A simple and respectful response of “I am sorry but I wish to remain silent” is all you need to tell law enforcement when stopped for drunk driving.
- Do not perform roadside sobriety exercises. Politely refuse to submit to any roadside sobriety exercises. Chances are the officer has already made a determination that you are driving under the influence and will simply use your performance on these exercises to build their case against you. How you do is subjective, meaning it’s up to the officer. No matter how coordinated, athletic or sober you feel you are, it is likely the officer will find faults to say that you did not perform to standards and place you under arrest. Remember, the officer will likely threaten you with arrest if you fail to comply with his request but it is pretty much certain that you are about to be arrested anyway.
- Should I take the breath test? It depends. Once you are arrested you will likely be transported to the police station and offered a breath test to measure your blood alcohol content (BAC). This is where you have a couple of options. Refusing to take the breath test will automatically suspend your license for a period of 1 year (for a first refusal). Having a BAC that is over the legal limit of .08 will also suspend your license (for 6 months). My answer is generally ‘no’ when asked whether you should take the breath test because it is very difficult for someone to know exactly how much they have had to drink and whether that amount will in fact make them register a breath reading that is over .08. Plus, breath testing is inaccurate and full of errors, so you probably do not want to take the chance. Here are your two options:
- If you haven’t had much to drink (one or two drinks MAX) and choose to take the breath test, ask for an independent blood test. By requesting an independent blood test you can combat any issues with the breath test machine if it has been tampered with or if it is faulty. Also, an independent blood test will show a more accurate blood alcohol level.
- If you feel you have had too much to drink and refuse to take the breath test, ask to consult with an attorney before taking the test. You do not have the right to an attorney at this point in time because driving is a privilege and not a right (and by driving in Florida you have consented to sobriety tests offered by law enforcement). Chances are the officer will inform you that you cannot have an attorney and you will have refused. However, by asking for an attorney you will appear to have exercised your rights rather than simply not taking the breath test because of a consciousness of guilt.
There are no guarantees in life and there is truly no way to know what the outcome of your DUI case will be. But following these steps when encountered by law enforcement for a DUI investigation will at least ensure that the evidence against you will be favorable. Remember, the best way to avoid the consequences that can stem from a DUI(i.e. being arrested, spending the night in jail, posting bail, hiring an attorney, having a permanent criminal record, paying hefty court costs and fines, having to fulfill tedious requirements, losing your license, getting fired, increased insurance premiums, injuring yourself or others) is to not drink and drive in the first place.