No one wants to be in that situation. Driving along after having a few too many drinks, and you see it: the red and blue lights coming up from behind in the rearview mirror. For most drivers in that situation, panic immediately hits in. But panicking is actually the worst thing a driver in this situation can do.
The following tips should be kept in mind if the unthinkable happens and the driver is pulled over for a DUI.
Why Did the Officer Pull the Driver Over?
First, it should not be assumed that the driver was pulled over for driving under the influence (DUI). The officer may actually have pulled the driver over for something completely unrelated, such as failing to stop at a stop sign, failing to use a turn signal or committing any other traffic violation.
The police officer’s job at that point is to then investigate the traffic violation and also observe anything that would give rise to suspicion for a DUI, such as the driver having poor coordination, the person slurring his or her speech, the smell of alcohol, etc.
Properly Pulling Over
The officer will observe how the driver handles pulling over. As soon as the driver sees the lights and hears the police sirens, he or she needs to pull over to the right side of the road as safely as possible. If the driver is not in the far-right line and needs to get to that lane, use turn signals to indicate when changing lanes as well as when the driver plans to pull to the side of the road.
Slow the car down at a safe speed and be sure to pull over as far to the right as possible to allow the officer to be able to approach the car safely. Turn on the car’s hazard lights to indicate stopping.
Follow the Officer’s Instructions
After pulling over, turn the car off, and keep the hands on the steering wheel. If it is dark outside, be sure to turn on the car’s interior light so the officer can clearly see inside the car.
It can be tempting to start looking for the driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance, but do not do this until the officer asks. Sudden movements can give the officer reason to believe the driver could be armed. If the officer asks for this information, tell him or her where you are reaching to get the items and do so carefully.
Only get out of the car if the officer instructs the driver to do so.
Be Polite and Cooperative
Whether the police officer arrests the driver for a DUI is not within that person’s control. However, it is proven that the more polite the driver is, the less likely it is he or she will be arrested. Do not argue with the police officer and politely refuse to answer his or her questions.
Keep in mind that everything that is said to the officer at this point will be used against the driver. Therefore, it is important that the driver not speak answer any questions. The driver is only required to give the officer his or her name, driver’s license and registration. Anything above that is completely voluntary and generally self-destructive.
It is important that the driver not lie to the officer when asked a question. If a question is asked and the driver believes the answer could incriminate him or her, politely decline to answer until the driver speaks to an attorney first. Silence or asking to speak to an attorney is not an admission to guilt, but making statements that are not truthful can end up harming the person’s case more later down the line.
Field Sobriety Testing is Voluntary
Many drivers are not aware of this fact, but they can say no to field sobriety tests. Under Washington law, submitting to a field sobriety test is completely voluntary.
A driver who is pulled over can decline to take field sobriety tests, but he or she should be prepared to be arrested at that point if he or she does decline to take them. On the other hand, if the officer is asking the driver to do FSTs, they officer is probably going to make a DUI arrest regardless of how the driver performs.
Understanding Implied Consent
Under Washington State’s rule of implied consent, the driver has already consented to taking a breath or blood test by getting behind the wheel. Therefore, refusing to take a breath or blood test could result in severe consequences.
It is generally recommended that the driver take the breath test on the machine located at the police station.
If the driver refuses to take this test, he or she could end up losing his or her driver’s license for at least a year. If the driver blows at a level above the state minimum, it is recommended that a DUI attorney be hired who can help dispute the results of this test or can at least minimize the consequences of them.
Requesting an Independent Test
The driver also has the right to request an independent test of his or her blood-alcohol concentration, which often is a blood draw taken at the hospital.
Blood tests tend to have more accurate results, and if the driver believes the blood test will show that he or she is below the 0.08 minimum, the DUI attorney can help use this to dispute a police breath test result above a 0.08.