Your heart sinks as you see the red and blue lights flashing in your rearview mirror. You’ve been drinking and are concerned that you’re going to get arrested for DUI. Before you start to panic, take a deep breath and compose yourself. Keeping a cool head and following the steps below will help you avoid self incrimination.
Reno criminal defense attorney Richard P. Davies has handled dozens of DUI cases and understands what steps citizens should take to best defend themselves in case that they are arrested for DUI. Here are the steps you should take if you get pulled over while driving under the influence:
- Find a safe place to pull over If you see flashing lights in your rearview mirror, immediately consider how and where you are going to pull over. The officer is watching you to see if you can pull over at a safe speed without swerving or interrupting traffic. It is also important that you pull over into a safe area in order to protect yourself and the police officer from harm. This means that you should avoid pulling over next an on ramp, off ramp, intersection, or busy corner. When see a safe place to pull over, turn on your turn signals, slow down, pull over, and stop as smoothly as possible. If you swerve, interrupt traffic, or pull over in an unsafe area the office will note this in his report.
- Don’t make any sudden movements Police officers are trained to act upon any suspicious activity. That means that the best thing you can do to keep yourself safe is to sit still in your car with your hands on the wheel and wait for the police officer to approach you. Don’t reach for your driver’s license or insurance information unless the police office asks you do to so. Before you reach for your drivers’ license or insurance, tell the police officer “I am going to get my driver’s license and insurance now,” so that he understands that you’re not reaching for a gun.
- Be Respectful The best way to protect yourself in the presence of a police officer is to be polite and respectful. If you’re rude or hostile, this will be noted in the police report. If the police officer asks you to step out of the car, you must comply or you could be charged with resisting arrest.
- Don’t Incriminate Yourself While it is important to be polite, that doesn’t mean that you should answer every question a police officer asks. Your responses can be used against you, so proceed with caution if you choose to answer any questions. If a police officer asks you if you’ve been drinking tonight, don’t lie – say yes or no. If he asks how many drinks you’ve had, be careful how you respond. If you’ve only had one or two drinks, you can say so as this shouldn’t put you over the legal limit. However, if you’ve had more than two drinks, respectfully reply “I’m sorry officer, but I’ve been advised not to answer any questions.” You can use this answer in response to any question that you feel would incriminate you. Remember that you have the right to remain silent!
- Refuse the field sobriety test Field sobriety tests are physical and psychological tests that are intended to test your sobriety. During a field sobriety test, a police officer may check your eyes with a light, ask you to balance on one foot and keep the other foot suspended 6 inches above the ground, or ask you to walk down a thin line and back without losing balance. An action as simple as reaching your arms out or losing your balance can be used as evidence of insobriety. The good news is that drivers are allowed to refuse the field sobriety test under Nevada state law. The only drawback of refusing the field sobriety test is that the police officer will most likely demand that you take a breath test.
- Request a Breath Test at the Police Station If you get pulled over, you may be asked to take a field breath test, commonly known as a breathalyzer. In Nevada, it is illegal to refuse a breath test. However, you can politely request to take a breath test at the police station instead of the field. Taking the breath test at the police station instead of on the side of the road will buy you time. If the police officer insists that you take a field breath test, you must comply if you are in the state of Nevada. If you refuse, you will be arrested for DUI and your drivers’ license will be suspended.
- Talk to a Lawyer If you are arrested for DUI, you will be handcuffed, seated in the back of the police vehicle, and taken to the police station. Before you arrive at the police station, ask to speak with your lawyer. Getting your lawyer involved as early as possible is one of the best ways to avoid a DUI conviction. If you don’t have a lawyer, get in contact with one as soon as possible following your arrest. A good lawyer may be able to dismiss the case against you. Even if the worst case occurs and you are convicted with a DUI, an attorney will negotiate with the judge to minimize your punishment. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until your first court date to see if you can work with a court-appointed attorney. You may find yourself without an attorney at all! This is because it is surprisingly difficult to qualify for court appointed attorney. In order to qualify for a state appointed attorney, you must provide extensive documentation proving that you can’t afford a lawyer. Unless you are living in poverty, it is unlikely you will qualify for public defense.
- Take Notes Write down every detail of the arrest as soon as possible. Writing down what happened while the events are fresh in your mind will help you build consistent evidence for your case. Since your trial may not be for months after your arrest, it’s important to take note of what happened before your start forgetting details. If you can’t keep your facts straight, you are much more likely to be perceived as guilty at your trial. Present your notes to your lawyer, as they will help him determine if any mistakes were made on the part of the police officer that might strengthen your case. Include the following observations in your notes:
- How many miles the police officer followed you before pulling you over
- Why the officer said he pulled you over
- What time you were pulled over
- What time you took the chemical test and how long it had been since your last drink
- If the police officer recited your Miranda Rights
- What you did before being pulled over
- How many drinks you had before you were pulled over
- How the police officer acted and what he said
- Don’t forget that you’re innocent until proven guilty Some people think that they have no choice but to plead guilty after blowing 0.08 or over in a field breath test. This is not true! Breathalyzer tests are famously unreliable, and a good Reno DUI attorney may challenge the validity of your BAC test results.
If you were arrested for DUI, don’t wait to talk to a qualified attorney. Remember that the outcome of your case will depend on the representation you choose! A good lawyer can help you avoid conviction, or significantly reduce your sentence. Contact Richard P. Davies, recognized as one of the top 50 DUI attorneys in Nevada by the National Advocacy for DUI Defense (NAFDD), today for help!