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Stopped for DUI: Do's and Don'ts

Does wearing a t-shirt that says "got beer?" give off that "arrest me" vibe?

So, what gives police reasonable suspicion to think that someone is under the influence of alcohol? Bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, odor of alcoholic beverages, unsteady gait? What if the guy was wearing a "Free Mary Jane!" shirt? Would that be reasonable suspicion that the driver is under the influence of marijuana?

Let's take a look at what really happens during a traffic stop, how you can use some good judgment and hopefully not get arrested for DUI.

The decision to arrest for DUI is made at the window of the vehicle. Everything after that is evidence gathering. Cops will tell you that privately. The question becomes how we can minimize the amount of evidence police gather at this pre-arrest detention.

Do be respectful to the officer, but say as little as possible. Don't admit to drinking/drugging

Be courteous, but admit to nothing. If the officer asks if you have been drinking return his question with a question, "would you like to see my license?" or "why do you ask?" Do not admit to drinking so much as one beer. You are under no obligation to give the officer any information beyond that on your driver’s license.

Do have your driver license, registration and insurance ready

Always keep documents like your registration and insurance card in a readily accessible location. You do not want to have to fish through your glove box, or worse, to not find these documents when you need them. Turn your dome light on and place both your hands on the steering wheel where the police officer can see them.

Don't submit to the roadside exercises

The officer may ask you to perform roadside exercises, "just to prove you're capable of driving safely." You are not required to perform these tests and there is no penalty for refusal. The only reason these tests are given is to give the officer justification to require you to take a breath, blood or urine test to determine your alcohol content or presence of drugs. No one ever "passes" one of these roadside sobriety tests, not even the "soberest" of the sober.

Don't try to talk your way out of it

For many police officers a traffic stop is all about control and ego. They are trained to control every citizen encounter to achieve two purposes: safety and evidence gathering. They do this by barking commands, giving instructions and expecting compliance. Telling the rank and file officer that you have a second cousin who is a Lieutenant on the Mayberry Police Department will just bristle him.

Don't take that breath test

This is the tough one. Most people underestimate how much alcohol they have consumed. Maybe the bartender pours heavy, or they lose track of how many glasses of beer went with those spicy wings. The rule of thumb is one drink (1.5 oz) per hour. But, really who drinks that way? And since breath testing is full of errors and failures and maintenance problems, do you want to roll the dice?

Don't forget, though, that there will be an administrative license suspension that goes along with a >.08 or a refusal. And, at least in Florida, a second refusal is a crime and could result in an 18 month license suspension, with no hardship permit.

Don't drive impaired

Bottom line...if you're drunk, then don't drive. Don't drive, because you don't want to hurt someone else or yourself. Don't drive, because you don't want to damage someone else's property or your own. And finally, don't drive, because you don't want to get arrested, lose your license, pay huge fines, have your insurance go through the roof and perhaps even lose your job.

Jonathan Blecher has been defending DUI cases for over 30 years, with offices in Miami, Florida.

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