If you’ve been stopped for DUI (Driving Under the Influence), or as some people say, DWI (Driving While Impaired), then your defense begins now.
In this step-by-step guide, a criminal defense attorney will point out the key ways to help you avoid a DUI.
What to Do if You’re Stopped for DUI
1. Pull Over Immediately in a Safe Place
- A police officer’s observations begin even before you’ve rolled down your window.
- If you see a police car signal for you to pull over, carefully come to a stop in a safe location as soon as possible.
- Turn on your turn signal and slow down until you stop.
- Erratic, sudden or slow responses may be used against you in a police report.
- If you keep driving and pass places where you could have stopped, it will be used against you.
2. Keep Calm and in Control of Yourself
Every law enforcement officer has their own safety as their priority. This is why they approach from the rear of a vehicle. The following instructions should be followed by yourself and any passengers:
- Roll down the window.
- Do not make any sudden movements.
- Do not twist around to watch the officer.
- Do not jump out of the car.
- Only leave the vehicle when instructed to do so.
3. Be Careful Where You Put Your Hands
- Keep your hands where an officer can see them.
- Follow all instructions from the officer regarding movements.
- Inform the officer of any movements, such as if you’re going to reach for identification.
- Do not put your hands in your pockets or reach for something, unless instructed to do so or without informing the police first.
4. Be Polite to the Officer
- It never goes well if you try to act smart or aggressive with a police officer.
- Even if they’re not friendly themselves, try to remain respectful and sincere.
- If you are rude, aggressive or uncooperative, then the officer is more likely to lose their patience and arrest you, or look to get you convicted.
- One of the keys to every case is how you treated the officer. So, if you were polite, even if you might be impaired, you have improved your chances of success.
5. Follow Instructions
- If asked to step out of the vehicle, you must comply.
- Failure to leave the vehicle can end up with a resisting arrest charge or getting forcibly removed from the car.
6. Have Your ID, Registration and Insurance Card Ready
- Don’t wait for the police officer to ask you to locate these items. Have your ID, your registration and your insurance card ready.
- If you fumble, or can’t find these items, expect that the officer will include that in the report. They love to throw these little negative items in the reports, so don’t give them the chance.
How Should I Answer the Questions the Officer Asks Me?
7. Do Provide Essential Information
- You MUST give your name, license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance..
- You are welcome to answer background questions about yourself, such as your address, health information, etc.
8. Do Not Answer Incriminating Questions
- You have the right to remain silent at all times, including to incriminating questions.
- If the officer asks how much you’ve been drinking, and you’re concerned you will incriminate yourself – you can say, “I’m sorry, officer, but I’ve been advised not to answer.”
- You do not have the right to a lawyer while being investigated for DUI, but once you ask for one, they can no longer question you.
- Do not Lie. This can be used against you in court.
- When in doubt, ask for a lawyer.
9. You Can Refuse a Field Sobriety Test
- You do not have to perform a field sobriety test while being stopped for a DUI.
- In many cases, it is much better to refuse to do anything than to look bad.
- Be polite when you refuse. There is no need to give a reason. The officer might get frustrated, but stick to your guns.
10. Should I Refuse an Alcohol Breathalyzer Test?
- In Florida, if you refuse to take the roadside breathalyzer test, you will receive a license suspension immediately. You will be unable to drive for at least a year. But, the officer won’t tell you that you can get a hardship license during that time! When in doubt, refuse.
- If you’ve had nothing to drink then you should take the test and blow .000. But, expect that the next step will be for you to give a urine sample. If you refuse that, your license will still be suspended.
- If you know you’re over the limit, then it is always better to refuse the breathalyzer test.
11. Do Not Resist Arrest
- Resisting arrest is illegal and will only make things worse.
- If the officer says you’re under arrest, then comply to avoid the officer hurting you or committing another crime.
12. Do Not Make Any Statements After Being Arrested
- There is no point in talking after you’ve been arrested.
- You are being recorded and everything you say will be used against you. Just be quiet.
- Do not make any posts on social media.
- Once in custody, you have the right to contact a criminal defense attorney to defend yourself from a criminal charge.
13. Make a Note of Everything You Remember
Once released, it’s important that you note down everything you remember about being stopped for DUI. Do this while the memories are fresh. Keep these notes private and safely secured. Only show them to your criminal defense attorney.
Note down anything you recall, even if it seems irrelevant. This may include:
- What you were doing the day of the incident;
- Where you were before you drove;
- The vehicle you were driving;
- What you were wearing;
- When you were drinking and how long it until you were stopped for DUI;
- How much you drank;
- How the officer stopped you;
- How the office behaved;
- Instructions the officer gave;
- Questions you were given;
- Your behavior to the officer;
- Your responses and statements to the officer;
- When and if you were read ‘Miranda Rights‘.
- When and if you took tests, including a field test, breath test or chemical test.
- Get witness information and receipts that will show how much you drank
14. Hire a DUI Defense Attorney As Soon As Possible
The next critical thing you can do is contact a criminal defense attorney.
You will only have 10 days after the arrest to sign up for DUI school and get your hardship license. It is crucial that these tasks are done quickly and correctly. A lawyer will be able to show you exactly what to do. If you delay or make mistakes, you will lose your chance to drive and that will cause a lot of problems.
Contact a DUI Defense Attorney
If you’ve been arrested for DUI, then our Florida criminal defense lawyers can help. There are many ways that we can get DUIs dropped or reduced down to a lesser charge, such as reckless driving. Pinellas County now offers a DROP program for first time DUI offenders that guarantees that your charge can be reduced to a reckless.
Sean McQuaid is a top-rated criminal defense attorney in Pinellas County. He has handled countless Florida DUI and DWI charges in his career. He is the president at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., one of Tampa Bay’s most prestigious law firms with the reputation and connections to make things happen.
With decades of experience helping people like you, we believe there is no better place to help you fight a DUI charge in Florida.
Contact us today for a free consultation to get started or CALL (727) 381-2300