Although the message of not drinking and driving is a simple one, DUIs account for about 3,200 arrests each day throughout the United States. Additionally, about one third of those arrests are by repeat offenders. The OC Sheriff and local police departments will be out in force on July 4 to nab those who are driving drunk, or even just buzzed. They may set up routine checkpoints to check whether drivers have been drinking, or they may target individuals who are driving erratically. Cell phones allow concerned citizens to act as an enforcement unit of their own, reporting drunk drivers on highways or in their neighborhoods. Those who have been reported may arrive home to find the police waiting for them in their driveway.
Police on patrols may be extra vigilant on holidays, paying close attention to drivers and the way they are driving. If you make an illegal U-turn, fail to completely stop at a stop sign, drive above the speed limit, or weave or drive erratically, they may be more inclined to stop you to check for a possible DUI. Once you are pulled over, there are certain things you should do, and not do, to get the best outcome for your situation:
- First, it’s important to realize that you don’t have to be drinking to be found guilty of DUI. If you are tired, drowsy, have taken sleeping pills, allergy medicine, prescribed or unprescribed painkillers, anti-anxiety, anti-depressant medication, have been smoking or vaping pot etc., a police officer may arrest you for generally “Driving while intoxicated.” If you have been drinking alcohol, you may also be arrested for the secondary “Driving while BAC > 0.08%” charge.
- You don’t have to reach a BAC of 0.08% to be arrested for DUI. If, for example, you are under the age of 21 you will be arrested if your BAC is anything over zero. Even if you’ve had only one drink, or have mixed your drink with some kind of medication, an officer may still consider you unsafe behind the wheel and you’ll be arrested.
- Next, hope is not a plan. The best option is not to be caught behind the wheel when you’re under the influence of a drug or alcohol. Make plans ahead of time to either stay where you are, get a ride from a sober friend, or call an Uber, Lyft, or taxi to get home. When possible, try to solve this problem while you’re sober. Trying to find a way home while dizzy and not thinking clearly may get you in trouble.
- Don’t draw attention to yourself. If you have a busted taillight, a burned out headlight, brake lights that aren’t functioning properly, blaring loud music, or are driving with expired tags, you are a prime target for being pulled over.
- If you are getting in your car while leaving a bar at 2:00am, expect that police will be closely watching nearby, just waiting for you to make a mistake so they can pull you over.
If you are pulled over by police, the next steps are to remember what you have to do, and what you don’t have to do:
- DON’T try to explain anything. Anything you say can and will be used against you later, even before you’re arrested. Police may be friendly and want to “chat” with you. They may laugh and joke with you, which is a tactic used to gain your trust so you’ll open up to them. Politely refuse and tell them you don’t feel comfortable answering questions without a lawyer.
- You DON’T have to perform field sobriety tests. They are designed to make you fail, and are difficult to pass, even when sober. In addition, being in high heels, on an uneven surface, in the dark, or in an unfamiliar place may add a challenge factor. Politely refuse to take any field sobriety tests.
- You MUST submit to a chemical test. We recommend requesting a BLOOD TEST. Yes, it’s inconvenient, painful, and seems to be more of a hassle than a breatholyzer, but we recommend requesting a blood test because the vial will be kept as evidence and an experienced attorney may be able to independently test it for accuracy. If you blow into a machine, there will be no sample kept to test later. What happens if you refuse to take a breath or blood test? It’s a very unpleasant experience. First, they’ll report to the DMV that you refused a chemical test and your license will be automatically suspended. But what’s worse comes next: they will arrest you, transport you to a hospital or the police station, strap you down to a table, and forcibly draw your blood as evidence.
- DON’T fight the cops. Don’t be belligerent, rude, condescending, or try to prevent them from doing their job. You will be taken down, probably suffer injuries, and you will likely be charged with resisting arrest, which makes your case more complex and harder to fight.
- After you’re arrested, DON’T make any statement, just as before. Anything you say or do can and will be used against you. You will be taken to the jail and held in a “drunk tank” for several hours. You will probably be forced to share the same cell with a bunch of strange, seedy characters who are also drunk or under the influence of something. Continue to maintain your silence through this period.
- DO hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. People who represent themselves in court are at a serious disadvantage when dealing with a system that is designed to gain the highest conviction rate possible. When you’re released from jail, immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. It’s important to do so quickly so that administrative tasks like requesting a DMV hearing are done timely, and so the attorney can consult with you what to expect, how your case will be fought, and the likely outcome.
If you or a loved one is charged with DUI, contact Irvine criminal defense attorney Staycie R. Sena immediately at 949-477-8088 for a consultation now.