How To Do If Stopped for DUI by the Police?
You’re on your way home. You’ve had a great night and are tired and ready to go to bed. Then, you see the blue light in your mirror. You know you’ve had a few drinks. You feel fine but you still worry the officer will not believe you. You’ve heard stories. And now you’re pulling over. You see the officer get out of the car and is walking up to your window. What do you do now? Well, first, don’t panic. Stay calm. Turn on the interior lights and place your hands on the steering wheel so the officer can see them. You don’t want to make any moves that will cause the officer concern. Just relax. You will get through this situation. Just listen, be respectful, and do what you are asked. We will debate whether you should have been stopped or arrested at the proper time – in court.
No matter what the reason for a police stop, you should always be polite and cooperative with an officer. They are simply doing their job and are out there to keep us all safe. It will not help you to be rude or aggressive towards police. In fact, the officer will note your demeanor on the report, and judges routinely ask about it in court. While your lawyer may raise issues about police procedure, you should keep the encounter as professional as possible. Even your lawyer will not be rude or insulting towards the officer, at least if that lawyer wants to be effective and not be called down by the judge.
Officer Safety Issues
Officer safety is always a major concern for both you and the police, especially these days. When you see the blue lights behind you, turn on your turn signal and pull over as soon as possible to a location that is safe for the officer to get out of their vehicle. As the officer walks up to your window, keep your hands on the steering wheel in plain view. Officers never know who is behind the glass and have to be on guard for the worse each time they stop someone. Promptly get your license and vehicle registration when you are asked to do so. As a matter of fact, you should be thinking about where your license and registration are so that you will be ready to show it to the officer. If you are asked to step out of the car, you should do so promptly but slowly. Sudden moves makes officers nervous, and you could fall making you appear impaired even if you are not. If you have a weapon in the vehicle, or have any weapon concealed on your person, you need to inform the officer of this fact immediately. Again, keep your hands steady and in view. Do not attempt to get the weapon to show it or hand it to the officer. Obviously, such actions will have an instant, negative response by the police. If you have a concealed weapon permit, you must also immediately advise the officer that you are a permit holder even if there are no weapons on your person or in your vehicle.
Scent of Alcohol Starts the DWI Investigation Process
If an officer smells alcohol, the police stop will become a DWI investigation. Although many of the questions and requests by the officer will seem somewhat haphazard, there is actually a structured process involved in determining whether there is probable cause to arrest for DWI. As the investigation continues, you will be asked to exit the vehicle and then attempt to perform Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. I indicate “attempt” because very few people are able to pass them the first few times they try. Officers, of course, have performed these tests many, many times and have become proficient. If you attempt them, you will most likely fail and be arrested. If you decline or refuse Field Sobriety Testing, you will be arrested. You get the idea here. Also, your refusal to try the tests will be admissible against you as evidence of “guilt.” In North Carolina, you will also be given a Portable Breath Test at the street. Twice. Even though you may have already admitted to drinking, this PBT will be used to show that you test positive for alcohol. The reading is not important and is not admissible at trial. Refusing either of the two tests will count as a “refusal” for DMV licensing purposes, and again, used against you in court. Once arrested and taken to the police station, you will be asked to submit to more formal breath testing. If you refuse or are unable to provide a breath sample, then your license will automatically be revoked by the Division of Motor Vehicles for 1 year, and the evidence of your “refusal,” even if from a machine “timeout,” will be used against you.
To Blow or Not to Blow
Many people ask about whether they should blow into the Intoxilyzer or whether they should not. The answer really depends on the facts in your particular situation. Factors to consider include how much you have had to drink, what type of alcohol (liquor, beer, wine) was ingested, how long ago you consumed your last drink, and whether you had anything to eat, among other factors. If you have only had one or two drinks, and it has been a long amount of time since your last drink, then you are probably fine to give a breath sample. On the other hand, if you have had several drinks in a short period of time without food relatively recently, you may want to delay giving a sample. You do have the right to request a witness to the Intoxilyzer test. The police must wait for up to 30 minutes for a witness to show up. You can ask to contact someone and have him or her to come to the police station to be a witness. If you refuse breath testing, the police may elect to get a warrant and transport you to a medical facility for a blood draw. This action will result in additional delay and may result in a lower BAC test result. However, keep in mind that by refusing, you will lose your driver’s license (or driving privileges if you are from another state) for an entire year, regardless of what happens with the underlying criminal DWI case. In addition, the fact that refused a breath sample will be used against you at trial. In the end, you have to make the best decision for you.
As you can see from the above overview, a Charlotte DWI charge is a serious matter. Prosecution and defense is a complicated process. Time is critical. It is important to retain an experienced DUI attorney quickly so that you can review your immediate options about getting your license or driving privileges back so you can get drive again legally to work or school. We can help. We focus our practice on Mecklenburg County DWI cases and are available to answer your questions when you need us. We give you our mobile phone numbers and direct email addresses so that we can help reduce the anxiety you are feeling. Try not to worry. This is what we do, and we can help. Call us today and let’s get started.