What to do When Being Pulled Over by Law Enforcement for Possible DUI
Helpful Reminders from a Criminal Defense Attorney
So, you’re being pulled over…
Everyone has experienced it once or twice, and it never feels great. The Blue and Red lights flick on behind you, and that siren begins to wail. You are being stopped by an officer. Not an ideal situation, by any means. However, there are some simple steps that you can take to make this process lead you to the best possible outcome.
The First is to Promptly Respond
Don’t continue driving and hope the lights will go away. They won’t. Nor is it a good idea to hope that they are for someone else. Even if you aren’t the individual being stopped, not pulling over is a traffic infraction in and of itself, under RCW 46.61.210, and can lead to you getting stopped when you otherwise would have been allowed to just continue on your way. And if the police are trying to stop you, not pulling over can lead to a felony charge of eluding.
Take a Moment to Compose Yourself
If you are acting excitable, that will make the officer worried, or curious, neither of which is positive for you. You don’t want to be interesting. Keep your hands on the top of the wheel when you aren’t doing anything else. Roll down the window when asked, and follow instructions. If you make movements where an officer cannot see, that’s an excellent way to make him worried that you might be going for a firearm. Use the time to remember where your license, registration, and proof of insurance are. The Officer will note if you take an extended period of time to get them, so try to be able to promptly respond.
Hopefully, once you give that information to the officer, he’ll let you go, or just write a ticket. But the truth is, most ‘traffic stops’ are just chances for the officer to check for signs of intoxication (possible DUI). So don’t be surprised if the officer asks you to step out of the vehicle.
These next few steps are critical!
The officer will ask you to perform the Field Sobriety Tests
Most people know about these. The walk and turn, stand on one leg, count backward… they are tests of your motor skills and cognitive functions for signs of impairment from alcohol. But what most people do not know is that you can say no. This is what the Police Officer is hoping you don’t know. But you can just tell him that you choose not to do the field sobriety tests. Doing so isn’t evidence you are intoxicated. It is just you exercising your constitutional rights. And this is one right you should exercise.
However, the officer may offer you a chance to do what is Known as the PBT, or Portable Breath Test
This one is a bit different then the Field Sobriety Tests. The reason is that take it or don’t, the result is not admissible at trial. So it is more a judgment call. If you think you can register under a 0.08, consider taking it. Blowing under an 0.08 could save you a trip to the jail. If you know you won’t, there is very little reason to take it.
At the end of this stop, the Officer will make the choice. He can arrest you, or he can let you go. If he does arrest you, my single best advice to you is before you do a single thing, be it speak to an officer, take the evidentiary breath test, or anything else, is get a Criminal Defense Attorney on the line and talk through your options with them. If you’ve followed these steps, you’ve left your attorney with as many options as possible to obtain a good result for you.