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DWI - What To Do When Pulled Over?

DWISo you've had a few to drink and you decide you're "good enough to drive home". Then, on the way home, you see the cop lights in your rearview mirror. Your heart races and you try to remember all the things they tell you to do and not to do when you get pulled over after you've been drinking. That's what this blog is for...a simple explanation for the question: What do I do when I've been pulled over after drinking?

First thing to understand is Driving While Intoxicated is a very serious offense and you better believe law enforcement treats it that way. When you've been pulled over and the officer suspects you've been drinking, don't try to be funny or cute. Be respectful, but be firm in asserting your rights.

Second thing to remember is that you do NOT have to take the standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs). In fact, the only thing you must do is identify yourself (and let the officer see your driver's license) and exit the vehicle when asked. Other than that, you could deny all field sobriety tests and refuse to answer any questions. Does that mean you should deny all tests and refuse to answer all questions? Not necessarily. I just think it's important for a person to understand that, legally, there is very little he/she absolutely MUST do.

If you decide to answer the officer's questions, be clear and confident with your answers. When you're being pulled over and as you wait for him to approach your vehicle, go over in your head where you've been, where you're going and what you've been doing that day/night because you will most likely be asked those questions. Of course, the officer will also likely ask you how much you've had to drink. If you've had more than a couple, you may want to politely tell the officer that you'll only answer his questions with your attorney present. The officer will try to talk you out of it, but stay firm in asserting your rights.

Most criminal defense attorneys will tell you that you should always deny all SFSTs. This is good advice. However, I've always said that I'd rather have a person do the SFSTs and do well on them than to refuse them altogether. The problem is, a person may be too intoxicated to truly judge whether he will do well on the SFSTs. The safe bet is to deny them altogether, especially if you have bad balance or coordination. But it's important to know that if you deny the SFSTs you are definitely going to be arrested. I've got some friends who are or were decent athletes. If those friends got pulled over and had only a couple drinks, I'd actually prefer that they perform the SFSTs because I believe they would probably perform well on them. But I've got other friends whose balance and coordination are such that they would look intoxicated during the SFSTs even if they weren't actually intoxicated at all. Which one are you? Also, if you can't remember how many you had to drink, chances are you won't do well on the SFSTs. Deny them in that situation.

If you've been arrested, at some point the officer will ask you to give a specimen of your breath or blood. DENY THIS REQUEST! If this is your first or second DWI, you do NOT have to submit a specimen (unless the officer gets a warrant, but that is covered in a previous blog). There are other circumstances that allow an officer to get your blood without your consent, but for the purposes of this blog, just know that you do not have submit a specimen for a typical first or second DWI arrest. Defending a DWI case with a blood or breath test above the legal limit is not impossible, but it's certainly more tough.

Hopefully this blog gives some guidance on what to do when pulled over and investigated for DWI. Remember, if you get arrested for DWI, you must hire an experienced DWI attorney to thoroughly investigate and defend your case. Do not assume that a DWI arrest means an automatic DWI conviction.