Steps to Take when Pulled over for DUI
I know that some of my posts are sensationalist and focus on things that are fun to read, but this one is different. This time, I am talking about drinking and driving, more importantly what happens when you get pulled over for suspected drinking and driving. A DUI is a very serious offense, and unfortunately, it is a very discretionary process. In fact, California law has two different charges for DUI. The first is completely discretionary, and blood alcohol content (BAC) isn’t even a major factor: If the officer feels you were driving erratically, any alcohol in your blood will lead to a driving under the influence charge. The second possible charge is for a BAC of more than 0.08% as measured by a breath or blood chemical test. In most cases where the BAC is measured above 0.08%, both charges are considered.
Here’s what you should do if you are pulled over for a suspected DUI.
When you are pulled over, you are in a state of detention. You are not technically in custody, but you are also not free to go. Because you are not in custody, the officer does not have to inform you of your Miranda rights. But just because you are not told of these rights doesn’t mean you don’t have them. According to California law, you are only required to provide your driver’s license, car registration, and proof of insurance. This doesn’t mean you should sit there silently and ignore an officer’s questions: Instead, you should politely inform the officer that you are declining to answer due to your Fifth Amendment rights.
The officer will probably tell you to step out of the car and take a field sobriety test. This is also not required by law, and you should refuse based on the grounds that the test is unreliable and subjective. It is important that you say all of this out loud because most California officers carry recording devices. These recordings can be used later in a court of law as part of your defense should you be arrested. You may also be asked to take a field breath test. Again, this is not required by law. As long as you are over 21 and not currently on probation for a previous DUI, you do not have to take this test. Again, make sure you state that you do not believe this is required by law and that the test is unreliable.
At this point, the officer can either take you into custody or let you go on your way. If you are taken into custody, you will be read your Miranda rights and taken to the police station, where you will be required to take a breath test or submit to a blood test. This test is required by law: Do not refuse it. If you do refuse, you will automatically have your license suspended for a year and the police will force the blood test on you anyway. If you are given the choice, the breath test is easier to discredit at a trial due to its accuracy issues, but a blood test can be retained to be retested at a later date.
If your chemical test comes back at 0.08% or higher, the officer will take away your driver’s license and give you a pink slip that is a temporary license. You’ll also receive a paper that states that your license will be automatically suspended for four months in 30 days. You will have 10 days to schedule a hearing to contest this suspension. This is a strict window, and you must make sure to request a hearing in that period.
Once you are released from the police station, immediately write down everything you can about the events of the day, including what you did before you were pulled over, the conversation you had with the arresting officer, and anything that happened at the station. This record will be invaluable to your attorney when putting together your defense.
Fighting a DUI is a serious matter, and you’ll need an attorney that specializes in DUI litigation for the best defense possible. Don’t try to fight the system on your own. There is simply too much at stake.
By Ted Burgess