What to do when you are stopped for a suspected DWI (DUI)
The obvious suggestion for anyone is that if you drink don't drive. It's a lot cheaper to take a cab or call a sober friend than the nightmare of getting arrested. But what do you do if you are stopped.
DUI or DWIHistorically the problem with advice as to what to do if stopped runs into a basic problem, that is that if you are impaired you probably will not remember what to do.
But here goes:
Every action you take is noted by the police.
1. Your driving: Were you weaving, driving too slow or fast, did other drivers complain. Note that the police will probably get behind you with you; this leads to,
2. How you react after they demand you stop: Did you stop immediately, hit the curb, etc.
3. Your responses and actions when they come into contact with you: In this case the police grade you by whether you seem confused, and they try to confuse you by using what are called divided attention tests. For example asking for your license and while you are doing that asking for something else.
4. Contact after you get out of the car: At this point your speech, redness of eyes, swaying or stumbling are noted as possible indicators of impairment, then,
5. You will be asked to perform Field Sobriety Tests. This will start with the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test. This is considered the best Field Sobriety Test indicator of impairment. In this strict standards your eyes are expected to follow a stimulus, normally a pen. Alcohol may affect the ability of the eyes to quickly tract the stimulus causing a jumping motion that is visible. The other standard field sobriety that are normally used are the Walk and Turn, and One Leg Stand.
Now before we go to what happens after you get arrested let's discuss the above.
The only thing you have to do is stop your car and produce your license. Nothing else. If you are impaired you are not going to fool a trained officer. Therefore be polite, shut-up and give them your license.
The courts have increasing made judgments based on field sobriety tests and the expertise of the officers giving the test. Bottom line is that the course to learn this is only 2 1/2 days and does not take into consideration differences in people. Another thing about field sobriety test. You are not going to be asked unless there is a suspicion you are impaired. Finally, if you are asked to perform the walk and turn, or the one leg stand it has always been determined that you are taking a ride in the police car. Thus I tell my clients to limit the damage and do nothing at this point.
But if you are arrested you will be requested to take a breath test to determine your blood alcohol reading. I believe in every state in the union the refusal to take the breath test may result in your license being suspended, which has serious ramifications. Further in many states even if a party refuses the breath test or the police believe drugs are involved the police can get a search warrant to seize your blood for analysis.
Okay. What do you do if arrested. It really depends on your situation. For some people a DWI is an embarrassment, for others the loss of a job. Bottom line it is your choice and you have to carefully consider your options.
Luckily many courts have come to understand there should be alternatives criminal prosecution of DWI's and have set up DWI Courts to work with offenders through therapy rather than giving them a record.
The policeWe have an overworked, underpaid group of men and women who are trying to do their job. As indicated earlier the amount of training they get for DWI detection is minimal.
Let's deal in reality. When someone is stopped for suspected DWI they fall into three classifications;
a. Someone important (elected official, etc.) for which a supervisor is called to handle the problem; b. Someone clearly not impaired; c. Someone who is suspected of being impaired.
To understand the police point of view one understands that they have probably all worked fatalities when a innocent victim was killed by a impaired driver. When I was a prosecutor I would tell juries that DWI laws were not to punish the offender as much as to protect the other drivers on the road.
Also from the police perspective they all are aware of cases in which a suspected driver was let go and then later killed someone else. Those days are over with.
So what we have is a situation where the police are going to err on the side of protecting the public and to a lesser point their jobs. Therefore I would suggest that if you have ingested anything that may cause you a problem that you hand the officer your license and stand mute.