What to do when pulled over for a DUI.
This is a quick summary of what you should do the moments those lights and sirens go on behind you.
Pull OverYou're driving down the road, it's late, you're tired, and all of a sudden those lights and sirens go on behind you. No matter what else has happened that night, PULL OVER as soon as it is safe to do so. Do not think about running from the police. They will get you, probably that night, and your charges just became much, much worse.
Calm DownYou've pulled over and the officer/trooper is sitting in the car doing something (he's running your license plate, but he doesn't tell you that). Whether you've had one beer or 10 shots, you are going to smell of alcohol. You may not smell it, but I guarantee that cop is looking for it. The number one "oopsie" that defendants did when I was a prosecutor was talk too much and get hysterical. Don't do that.
Calm down. Take a deep breath. It'll be fine. Turn on the dome light in your car and get your license, registration, and insurance. Too many police reports contained the language, "I observed the Defendant fumbling through his wallet" when no one has any idea what that means.
As the officer approaches remember: BE POLITE AND RESPECTFUL. Mouthing off will never get you anywhere good, especially if the officer is being rude.
ContactThe officer will approach either your window or the passenger side. Many youtube attorneys will tell you to talk through the glass and not to roll your window down. This is BAD advice. If the officer has reasonable articulable suspicion (RAS) to pull you over, he can ask you out of the car. Making yourself a nuisance is only going to make things worse. He's going to ask you why you smell of alcohol, and how much you've had to drink tonight.
This is the start of the hard part as there is only one good answer, but it is hard to give. Many Defendants end up saying, "one beer" or "just two drinks, but it was like three hours ago." They just admitted that they have consumed alcohol and the officer may now conduct standardized field sobriety tests. The only correct answer is, "Thank you, but I would like to speak with an attorney before I answer any questions." As a prosecutor with easily over 1000 DUIs to my name, I can tell you that has happened fewer than 5 times.
So you probably said, "none" or "a few." Let's work with those. If you were ahead of the game and refused to answer, skip to the "Arrest."
Outside of the CarAt some point now, the officer is going to ask you to step out of the car. He's going to ask you a few more questions and gauge your responses. The officer is going to ask you to perform Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs). This will include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN), Walk and Turn, and One Leg Stand test. Just a heads up: you will never pass these to the officer's satisfaction. The goal is to pass them to the judge's satisfaction.
Now, the thing that most people don't seem to know is YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO THE SFSTs. You will be arrested upon not doing it, but 99.99% of the time you're going to be arrested anyway. The fields, unless you absolutely nail them (which you won't) will never help you. Do not do the tests.
But you're probably reading this because you did do the test. The HGN is tricky so I'll be brief: it's a scientific test measure the "jumps" in your eye movement. You can't fake it and if you try to move your head, that'll be added to the list. Don't worry though, HGN only tells the judge that there is at least more than 0 amount of alcohol in your blood. It cannot (in Maryland) be used to tell the judge that you are under in the influence. Plus, most prosecutors don't actually know how to get it into evidence.
The second two tests are balance and coordination tests. The trick is to listen carefully to the instructions. For the Walk and Turn: count out loud for each step, on the ninth step, take your second foot and take Small and Choppy steps around your planted foot. For the One Leg Stand test: count out loud, keep your head down, and don't raise your hands (it's harder than you think). There is a little trick to it if you're wearing somewhat baggy pants: it's easier to do with a slightly bent knee on your planted leg.
ArrestHere you are, either done with your tests or refused to do anything. Either way, you're about to be arrested for a DUI. Don't panic. Don't talk. Don't plead. Your silence cannot be mentioned. Do not resist or talk back. If you were offered a preliminary breath test (a roadside one that is not in the station), you can take it if you want because it will never be admissible by the State of MD (it can be by your attorney, but that is very fact specific). Once you get to the station, you'll be read your DR-15(a) rights. This will tell you a bunch of stuff about your license. The important part is that you are about to be offered a breathalyzer. My advice is to always refuse a breathalyzer. People are notoriously horrible at guessing how drunk they are.
So here's what going to happen now. You are going to lose your license for 180 days. That sucks. But if you opted to blow and you blew over a .14, it's going to be for 270 and there is almost no way to beat the criminal part of the DUI.
So don't blow. It will almost never help you.
ReleaseWhew, that was not fun. But you're out, either on bail or the officer just released you to a friend. You need to call a DUI attorney who knows what they're doing, TODAY! You are about to lose your license for a very long time with the MVA and you only have 15 days to request a hearing. Call a knowledgeable DUI attorney TODAY! Did you get that? TODAY!
Good LuckEven if you did everything wrong above, it doesn't mean you're toast. Officers screw up on minor details that cost the state the case. Judges can be swayed. A knowledgeable DUI attorney will be able to defend your rights and get you the best outcome.
Not every DUI is going to be like this, but this is the most common interaction. If you have questions, please contact me: Christian Hartman at Hartman, Attorneys at Law. I'll be happy to give you a free consultation about your case.