Anatomy of a DUI Stop: What to do (and not to do) when you get pulled over on suspicion of DUI.
Pull Yourself Together.You are now stopped on the side of the road, waiting for the police officer to approach your vehicle. Your job over the next few minutes is to exert as much control over the few things that remain in your control (be nice, don't say anything incriminating, don't perform FST's, and pay attention to everything that's going on). You no longer control whether or not you drank; you no longer control whether or not you swerved, but you can control whether or not you say and do stupid things.
In other words, pull yourself together. Sure, you're scared, nervous, maybe even drunk, but what you say (verbally and physically) and what you do over the next few minutes can drastically change your life. Fill your lungs with a deep breath and oxygenize your brain.
Why HOPE is "no-bueno."There's a good chance you're going to a jail. There, I said it. It's important to get this out of the way now so that you don't make important concessions on the hope or belief that if you "cooperate" the police officer will let you go. He won't.
A Word About Police Officers: Try to Understand Them.Police Officers have a dangerous job. They don't know you, whether you're violent, whether you're dangerous, whether you have a gun/knife/glowstick, etc... Naturally, when encountering a suspect, vis-a-vis YOU, one of their primary concerns is officer safety.
The best thing you can do at this point is convince the police officer that you understand and share his concern for safety. When he approaches, make sure your hands are on the steering wheel; make sure your passengers, if any, have their hands where the officer can see them. Don't make any sudden or suspicious movements. Speak to the officer with respect. When he asks for your license and registration, inform him that your license is in your back pocket and your registration in the glove box (or wherever else you keep it), then request permission to retrieve. Something as simple as: "officer, may I reach for my license and registration?" will suffice. Little things like these will make the encounter less "tense."
The Police Officer Thinks You Are Guilty.You are guilty as of the moment the police officer decides to pull you over. Practically speaking, at least at this point in the DUI process, the Police Officer's determination that you're guilty is all that matters. It doesn't matter that you think you're fine, that you think 2 beers 2 hours ago is nothing to write home about. After pulling you over, his only task is to substantiate his belief that you are guilty.
Some common questions that come up during the initial police encounter are: Where are you going? Where are you coming from? Have you had anything to drink? How much did you drink? When was your last meal? What did you eat? Are you under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
Pay attention: YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS. Why? Because the answers are potentially incriminating and because you have the right to silence. See next step.
What To Say: Nothing (or as close to it as possible).Remember all that stuff about "you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you; you have a right against self incrimination, and a right to an attorney..." We've heard some variant of this all our lives. Well, guess what? It's true. You do have these rights...
AND IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU ASSERT THEM.
The only questions you are required to answer are those that are designed to establish your identity. This is why it is important that you follow STEP 1 above: pull yourself together. Cops can be pretty savvy when it comes to eliciting information from you. Pay close attention to what they are asking and ask yourself, "is this question going to incriminate me in any way?" Rule of Thumb: if you don't know whether the answer is incriminating, don't give an answer.
Field Sobriety Tests (FST's).This section is brief: Don't do them. You cannot "pass" an FST. They are designed for one reason only: to justify the police officer's belief that you are boozed up. They are highly incriminating and you should respectfully decline to partake.
Roadside PAS (Breathalyzer)This section is also brief. You are not required to submit to a roadside breath test. These machines are very unreliable, and you should respectfully decline.
Fork in the RoadOk, so that this point, you're on the side of the road, you've declined to answer all the officer's questions, you've declined to perform FST's, you've declined to take the roadside breathalyzer, yet the officer still believes you're intoxicated, now what?
An officer is entitled to make an arrest if he has probable cause to believe that a crime was committed. If you followed all the instructions above, he won't have much other than your alleged driving pattern and the boilerplate "strong odor of alcohol emanating from his/her person..." Unfortunately, this is likely enough for the Police Officer to arrest you and take you to the station for further investigation (breath/blood test).
This is why all the preceding steps above are important: pull yourself together, control what you can control, don't say anything beyond your name and address, don't participate in FST's or roadside breathalyzer, and don't say things because you think "cooperating" will get you off.
ArrestBelieve it or not, even though you are in the back of a cop car with handcuffs, you are in a much better position than you would have been, had you not followed my advice!
Why? Because when you are arraigned and your attorney gets a copy of the police report that says only "uh...he smelled like alcohol...and, uh....he was swerving...and, uh...oh yea, he had bloodshot eyes," it is much less damaging than "suspect admitted to drinking a Mickey's 40 oz immediately before driving; fell down 4 times during one leg stand; and estimated 30 seconds as being 96 seconds."
Remember what I said above (police officer can likely arrest you just from your driving pattern and objective symptoms like odor)? Well it's true. So why help them build their case against you by telling them you did drink, by showing them how poorly you can perform on the FST's, and by blowing the roadside breathalyzer?
Assert Your Right to An Attorney; Contact One Immediately.Upon arrest, be sure to assert your right to an attorney and cease from answering any further questions. Contact an attorney immediately so that he can help you with the criminal process. Most DUI attorneys will also assist with the DMV administrative hearing.