This guide will help you get through an encounter with law enforcement if you're driving after consuming alcohol, and you get pulled over by a police officer.
What should I do this weekend if I have one too many beers, margaritas, or martinis before getting on the road and I get pulled over?
First of all, if you’re thinking about this now, you should get a designated driver, or plan to split a cab ride with a friend! If, however, you find yourself in this unfortunate situation—don’t panic! When you’re first pulled over and approached by the peace officer, you should cooperate and be honest! Attempting to delay, deceive, or disrespect the officer will only get you into more trouble!
So what should I say when the officer starts asking me all sorts of questions about how much I’ve had to drink, when I last ate a meal, etc.?
You should definitely tell the officer about any illnesses, injuries, conditions you’ve been suffering from, but otherwise, you should politely tell the officer that you do not wish to answer any questions about whether or not you’ve been drinking, when you last ate a meal, and where you were traveling to without consulting your attorney first.
What happens when the officer tells me to get out of my vehicle and asks me to perform field sobriety tests—what should I do then?
You should politely tell the officer that you are not feeling well enough to perform any field sobriety tests (e.g. due to any of the illnesses, injuries, or conditions you’ve already told him or her about), and that you only wish to provide a chemical sample. You are not required by law to perform any of these field sobriety tests.
So the officer tells me that I now need to blow into a hand-held device so he can figure out if I’ve been drinking—do I have to do this?
First of all, if you're 21 years old or older, you MUST give a blood or breath sample if the officer suspects that you’ve been driving under the influence of alcohol, or risk losing your driving privilege for one whole year! However, most officers will first ask you to blow into a preliminary alcohol screening ("PAS") device to quickly determine in the field if you’ve been driving with a blood alcohol content ("BAC") above .08. You are NOT required to submit to a PAS test! You should also keep in mind that if you stopped drinking well before you got on the road (i.e. 2 or more hours), you should never provide a breath sample in the field (or otherwise), but instead ask to give a blood sample. In this scenario, giving a blood sample is preferred because it takes a while for the officer to complete the DUI investigation in the field before transporting you to a medical facility (or jail) for a blood draw. By the time you provide a sample, your BAC will hopefully have fallen below .08.
What if I didn’t stop drinking 2 hours or more before I got on the road—is it ok to give a breath sample, then?
If you believe that your blood alcohol content may be over the legal limit of .08 (i.e. you got on the road right after finishing a drink or two), you may consider giving a breath sample (both in the field using the PAS device, as well as at the station) because there are more opportunities to attack the reliability of a breath test in court, and the results of your breath test(s) may show that your blood alcohol content was still rising well after you were pulled over. In other words, your blood alcohol content at the time you were driving may have been below the legal limit.
If the officer decides to arrest me for DUI, what should I after I get released from jail?
You should immediately consult with an experienced DUI attorney! Trying to handle your own DUI case without an attorney may ultimately result in you receiving harsher penalties in court, suffering an automatic suspension of your driving privilege by the DMV, and severe long-term financial and emotional consequences. Most DUI attorneys will warn you about representing yourself, but will also suggest that an attorney can obtain a favorable result for you, for the right price—don’t be fooled! Results can never be guaranteed! You should hire an experienced attorney who will be honest and straight-forward with you from start to finish, but who won’t charge you a premium for unrealistic results.