These suggestions apply to operating any vehicle after consuming alcohol or drugs, and when I refer to alcohol, I’m also referring to drugs, whether prescription, or otherwise. Before I suggest what to do if you’re stopped for a DUI/DWI, let me say that it is always best not to drive, if you’ve been drinking. Despite what most people think, you cannot tell when you’ve had too much to drink. Your ability to operate a vehicle is impaired long before you feel the buzz, or other effects from the alcohol. Due to various factors, it’s impossible to predict how much you can drink before you’re impaired. My suggestion is, if you’re going to drink, either have a designated driver, or use a cab, Uber or other service to drive for you. It’s not worth losing your life, being crippled, or causing some other person’s death or serious injury, which could also cause you to serve years in prison. Before you ever take that first drink/drug, think about the potential consequences of drinking and driving, and plan your night out, and ride home accordingly. I’d much rather lose this area of my legal practice, than have even one more person seriously hurt or killed in an accident involving alcohol or drugs.
That being said, if you are stopped by law enforcement, after you’ve consumed drugs and/or alcohol, there are my suggestions:
1. Never Try and Elude or Outrun the Police!
If an officer activate his lights or otherwise indicates that you should stop or pullover, just do it. It never pays to try and run because, if you do, and someone, especially an officer, is hurt or killed, you’re looking at a significant prison sentience.
2. Always Have Your License, Insurance Card and Registration Available
When an officer approaches your vehicle, he will ask you for your credentials and, at the same time, he will be evaluating you and your physical condition. He will look to see if your eyes are bloodshot, if the odor of alcohol is coming from your mouth or car, and whether you are fumbling to try and find your documents. Therefore, cologne and chewing gum may help with the first two and, if before you start driving, you place your documents within close proximity to you, and easily accessible, it wont appear that you’re fumbling around, due to your dexterity being impaired.
3. Don’t Have the Odor of Marijuana or Alcohol in your Car
The shortest contact possible with the police is the best. Recent court decisions have held that the police can search your car, if they detect the odor of marijuana. Never smoke marijuana in your car, wear clothing that was recently exposed to it, or have marijuana in your car, especially in the passenger compartment. If they smell marijuana and start searching your vehicle, you’ll be under police scrutiny longer, which is never a good thing.
4. Do Not Answer and Questions!
In a typical traffic stop, an officer will ask you some questions, such as where are you coming from, where are you going, whether you’ve had anything to drink, and is there anything illegal in the car. Simply state, you do not wish to answer any questions, with out first talking to an attorney, and simply provide the officer with your identification, registration and insurance card. The officer may attempt to continue to question you, simply do not answer. This may sound rude, but it’s for your benefit. Simple ask the officer if you’re being detained, or if you can leave. If he says you’re being detained, do not try and leave, but also do not answer ANY questions, matter what the officer threatens or promises. The more you talk, the more likely it is he will smell alcohol, or that you’ll say something incriminating.
5. You Do Not Have to Perform Field Sobriety Tests
If the officer believes that you may be intoxicated, he will request that you perform some Filed Sobriety Tests. Although there are many tests, mostly not approved, the most likely tests may include a Walk and Turn Test, One-Leg Stand Test, HGN Test (officer asks you to follow the pen with your eyes). You are not required to perform those tests! These tests are very inaccurate, and they are the major reasons an officer will arrest you for DUI/DWI and bring you to the station for breath testing. Unlike breath testing which is required, and you can be charged with refusal to submit to breath testing, you’re refusal to perform them can only result in your refusal being used against you in court, and not a separate charge for refusal. This is a decision you would have to make. However. to me refusal is usually a good idea, since the less evidence the officer has against you, the less of a basis he may have to take you to the station for breath testing, and the less interaction with the officer, the better. If you agree to perform the Field Sobriety Tests, make sure you tell the officer all of your medical conditions that may affect your ability to successfully perform the tests: bad/injured back, knees, ankles, inner ear problems (congestion, infection), current cold or flu symptoms, balance issues, and any other medical conditions that you think may affect the tests.
6. Breath Testing (Alcotest)
If the officer believes he has a basis to arrest you for DUI/DWI, he will handcuff you and bring you to the police station. No matter how innocent you may feel you are, NEVER RESIST ARREST! But never answer questions, or talk to the police. Save your energy for fighting the charges in court. The only question you have to answer is when they ask you if you’ll submit to breath test. Say yes, and that’s all you say! They may try and ask you more questions, like when did you have your last drink, where was it, how much, when did you at last eat, etc… Ignore these questions. If they press you, simply state you’re not answering any questions, until you speak with an attorney. In New Jersey, you are required to say submit to a breath test and, if you refuse, you’ll be charged with refusal, which carries similar penalties to a DUI/DWI, and will be in addition to the DUI/DWI charges. So, except for certain limited situations, you should always agree to take the breath test, now called the Alcotest. Once you leave the police station, you should consider going to a laboratory of your own choice and have your blood tested for alcohol. It may help your case in court
7. Blood Testing
If you’re in an accident, or cannot otherwise provide a breath sample, the police will try and have you consent to a blood test. Don’t consent to any blood test. The police can get a warrant and force you; however you should not volunteer to give blood.
8. Don’t Talk to the Police
I know I’ve said it several times in this article, but its importance cant be emphasized. As in criminal cases, many people convict themselves by talking with the police. Don’t, no matter how nice or nasty they may be to you. You can only hurt your case, by talking to them. The only thing you have to say, if you’re asked, is yes, you’ll submit to the breath test (alcotest).
9. Try and Remember Everything You Can about Your Contact with the Police
It’s important to try and remember, or write down once you leave the station, as much as you can about the interaction wit the police, such as:
1. where you were stopped?
2. lighting in the area where any Filed Sobriety Tests were performed
3. whether any lights, on the police vehicle, or otherwise, affected your ability to perform the tests/
4. the type of surface on which the Filed Sobriety Tests were performed
5. the shoes, or lack thereof, you were wearing
6. everything the officers said to you, or you heard them say to each other, including any instructions or demonstrations of any tests you were to perform.
7. names and addresses of anyone else in our vehicle, or witnesses
8. was there a video camera in the car or in the room where you performed the breath test?
9. did you or any officer have any radio or cell phone in the room where you performed the breath test?
10. Was the/an officer always in the room with you, and watching you, prior to you starting the breath test?
11. did the officer change the mouthpiece of the breath test machine, before you performed each test?
12. as soon as you can, after you leave the police station, contact an attorney who has significant experience handling DUI/DWI cases.
If you, or someone you love has been arrested for a DUI/DWI, its important to contact an experience attorney as soon as possible. I've been successfully handling DUI/DWI cases for over 26 years. Call my office for a free consultation. I'll explain the charges and how I can help you.
All the Best!
Randy C. Redden