Being prepared is the best defense. Staying calm, understanding your rights, and asserting them politely is the best strategy. Part 1 of the 3 part series focuses on what to do while you are in the car. Learn how to prepare for and react during a DUI stop and investigation.
1. Insurance & Registration
Always have your Insurance and Registration within arms' reach; By the way, don't forget to make sure you have good tabs.
Put Your driver's license somewhere easy to reach BEFORE you start driving.
Check your all your lights (signals, parking, front, rear, license plate)
4. Seat Belt
Buckle UP (wear your seat belt)
5. Turn Signals
Don't forget to signal, EVEN IN A TURN LANE.
6. Lane Travel
Most people will not notice that their vehicle is swerving, but one thing you can do while travelling down the street is don't force yourself into a last minute turn. If you think you're gonna miss the turn, miss it, and catch the next one. This way you will not be forced to coordinate turning, signaling, and slowing all in too short a time. Also, if you realize you are being followed by law enforcement, avoid looking into your review mirror. The lights from behind may cause you to veer out of your lane.
When the officer activates the emergency lights, pull over immediately, and carefully come to a stop to the right of the road you are on. Avoiding taking the Officer off the road, or into a quiet side street. This will increase the officer's anxiety level which will get directed toward you.
8. Window Conversations
When the officer contacts you at the window, be POLITE, but keep conversation to a smiling "YES" or "NO" answer. It's hard to slur the word "NO," but that's what the officer is looking for so they can justify asking you to exit the vehicle if they smell alcohol. See Step #1 & #2 (have your license, insurance, and registration ready to hand over without fumbling prior to the officer reaching the window).
Part 2 of this 3 Part series focuses on Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFST's) and the Portable Breath Test. What happens if the Officer asks me to exit the vehicle?
1. Exiting the Vehicle
Unhook your seat belt. Open your door slowly, and get out in one smooth motion. If you need some help getting out by using your door, be sure to push or pull, but don't lean. Officers look for that as a sign of bad balance. More often than not, officers already have enough evidence to arrest you for a DUI when they ask you to exit, so there is nothing you can do to avoid arrest by submitting to any tests on the street, but you should exit, so the officer does not have safety concerns. The officer may ask you again if you've had anything to drink. You're right to remain silent means you can politely say, "Officer Whether I was Drinking or Not, I don't wish to answer that question." & "If you feel I'm impaired, I'll be happy to go with you down to the station." But "If not, I'd like to leave now."
2. Officer: "Will you take some tests to see if you're okay to Drive?"
See the answer to Step 1. All the tests on the street are voluntary, and no law requires you to submit to this circus show. Some officers will try to intimidate you by saying if you don't take these, I'll have to assume you're impaired and arrest you. You can't change that, so don't submit, at the risk of giving evidence against yourself. These tests include the HGN, VGN, One-Leg-Stand, and Walk and Turn.
3. HGN (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus) Test
The HGN test inolves following the officers lighted pen side to side, slowly. During that time, the officer looks for an involuntary stutter in your eye at different angles called a nystagmus. The stutter reveals the presence of alcohol. This test is voluntary, and you should say politely that you DO NOT WISH TO TAKE THE TEST.
4. VGN (Vertical Gaze Nystagmus) Test
The VGN test inolves following the officers lighted pen up and down, slowly. During that time, the officer looks for an involuntary stutter in your eye at different angles called a vertical nystagmus. This stutter reveals a high level of impairment. This test is voluntary, and you should say politely that you DO NOT WISH TO TAKE THE TEST.
5. One Leg Stand & Walk 'n' Turn
Don't take these tests (they are voluntary). Usually the officer will rush you into taking this test by immediately going into instructions for the test. The One Leg Stand will very likely make you fall forward, and the Walk and Turn will make you fall to the side, so don't waist any time doing these tests. I've seen acrobats still get arrested after taking these tests.
6. PBT (Portable Breath Test)
Most officers will carry with them a portable device that measures Breath Alcohol Content. This device is not accepted or reliable science, and will not be used in a trial, but can be used to arrest you, so don't blow into it. There is no law that requires you to do so, it's only the machine at the station that counts. And when you get down there, you should ask to speak to an attorney.
Part 3 of this 3-Part series focuses on what to do when you get to the Station where you will be processed for Breath Alcohol Testing.
1. The Car Ride Down ("Being Transported")
The minute the officer says, "I'm placing you under arrest for DUI," and pulls the handcuffs off his utility belt, most people will go into a state of shock, but this is the time to be the most attentive to your defense. Stay alert! The officer is going to read you your constitutional rights, usually off a small note card size card they keep in their pocket. Number 1 is YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT. Exercise that right. Officers will and may genuinely like to make conversation with you after placing you in cuffs and putting you in the backseat of the patrol car. However, your defense requires that you remain POLITE, COOPERATIVE & SILENT. You can't explain yourself out of the handcuffs, or out of the charge, so don't try.
2. Waiting for the BAC Room
When you get to the BAC station (usually the located at the police station or the jail), the officer will re-read your constitutional rights. Number 3 or 4 on the list is YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO AN ATTORNEY. Exercise this right by saying, "I'd like to speak to my attorney as soon as you can possibly reach them for me." Have that name ready and that contact information ready. The officer should wait a reasonable amount of time (15-30minutes) for a call back, and should then give you a reasonable amount of time to speak to your attorney (15-30minutes). You should inform the attorney if you have any prior DUI related history, and you should discuss how to protect your interests during processing at the station. Your job at this point is to be very attentive to where the officer is from the time you reach the station to just before you are asked to submit to the BAC test.
3. The Mouth Check
Once at the station, the office is going to be eager to get you processed, and move on to the next potential DUI stop, but they have many technical requirements to uphold before asking you to submit to a Breath Test. The first is a mouth check. The officer can either ask you if you have something in your mouth (like a tongue ring, a removable tooth, gum, chew, etc...), or ask you to open your mouth and check. If the officer asks, you should let the officer know what's in your mouth. If the officer doesn't ask, or doesn't check, you should remember that, and tell the lawyer you ask to talk to.
4. The Questionaire
Don't do it. You have the right to remain silent, so don't answer any questions for the officer regarding what medications you take, what time you think it is, where and what time was your last drink. These answers WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU.... politely remind the officer that you wish to remain silent. The officer has to kill at least 15 minutes before asking you to submit to the test, so they try to get you to answer these questions after checking your mouth and letting you talk to an attorney. Don't do it.
5. The 15+ Minute Observation Period
By law, the officer has to make sure that you don't eat, drink, vomit, or smoke for at least 15 minutes prior to taking the breath test. Even though you may still be in shock, thinking about spending the night in a jail that smells like urine sacks, on the floor of the restroom maybe because it's overcrowded, you best pay attention. If the officer leaves the room, turns around, or does anything that distracts the officer from observing whether or not you ate, drank, vomited, or smoked, YOU NEED TO REMEMBER.
6. The Implied Consent Warnings
Anyone who exercises the privilege of driving on a public road, or obtains a driver's license has, by that action, implied that they consent to taking a BAC test when asked to do so by an officer who has reason to believe you are impaired by alcohol or drugs, but you don't have to take the test. Usually its a good idea to submit to the test. Before doing so, the officer must accurately warn you what will happen if you take the test or refuse the test. And if you are confused, the officer must clarify any questions you may have, so...... DON'T BE SHY TO ASK QUESTIONS, ASK QUESTIONS, ASK QUESTIONS, AND ALWAYS REMEMBER THE OFFICER'S RESPONSES.
7. TO BLOW OR NOT TO BLOW?
Deciding to take the breath test is a decision that should be made after all of your questions and rights have been explained to you by an attorney, and after the officer clears up any confusion you may still have about taking the test. Most people are very reluctant to blow in fear of giving evidence against themselves, but don't forget that refusing to blow is also evidence that you are afraid that blowing will reveal the evidence against you. You should talk to an attorney before deciding.
8. Taking the Test
When taking the breath test, pay attention to any malfunctions that happen. Breath Test Machines are most reliable for one thing, malfunctions. The officer will ask you to give 2 samples, usually within 2-3 minutes apart. If the machine malfunctions, the officer has to start the process all over again. That means a new 15 minute observation period, and then a another attempt at 2 samples. Pay attention to these mistakes, and how long the officer actually waits. If you mention the mistake, be polite, and most importantly DON'T ACT LIKE A JAILHOUSE LAWYER. Act like the unsuspecting, inexperienced individual that you are, relatively speaking.
9. Gathering Your Own Evidence
After the officer is done processing you, you have the right to record and collect evidence on your own behalf. Most people don't have investigators or lawyers on call to start immediately, but a phone call to one good attorney is all you need to start preparing your defense. If the officer is going to book you into the jail, you should demand that the officer take you to a hospital, so that you can have your blood drawn and preserved for testing as evidence that may counter the Government's evidence obtained against you. You should make mental, if not written, notes about the things that stood out in the investigation and stop, and prepare to share those with your attorney.