Recently on our DUI forum a user asked, “I was out celebrating my birthday a few nights ago. I had a few beers. I did not think I was intoxicated, but I was stopped and arrested for DUI. I am starting to think I might have made some common mistakes after the DUI stop. Could you give me some general information about what I should have done?”
Although it goes without saying that you should never drink and drive, it sounds like you did. So, let’s talk about some common mistakes you should have avoided during your DUI stop.
Top mistakes during a DUI stop
- Admitting to drinking or any other illegal action.
If you have been stopped for driving under the influence it’s likely you will be a bit nervous. It’s important, however, to stay calm, be courteous, and make no admission of guilt. Although you do have to provide your driver’s license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration, you do not have to answer all of the officer’s questions about whether you have been drinking or how much you have had to drink.
- Making sudden movements or surprising the officer.
In today’s social climate it’s important not to surprise a police officer. It’s also important to avoid any sudden or frantic movements in your car. For example, wait until the police officer asks for your driver’s license, registration, and insurance before reaching into your glove compartment. When they do ask, you can even repeat back to them that you are going to reach into your glove compartment for the documents. Turn on the dome light in your car and keep your hands where the officer can see them.
- Agreeing to field sobriety test.
Although an officer is legally allowed to ask you to perform field sobriety tests at the scene of the DUI stop prior to arresting you for DUI, you are not required to perform these tests. It’s generally best to politely refuse the test. Keep in mind, however, you might be arrested for DUI after the refusal. If you are arrested and the officer asks you to submit to a chemical test, you may refuse but penalties for a chemical test refusal can be severe. For example, you may have your license automatically suspended and your refusal (in some states) may be used against you as evidence in court.
- Voluntarily allowing a police officer to search your car.
Generally, a police officer will need probable cause or at least reasonable suspicion to search your car at a DUI stop. Although the laws can be a bit complicated, it’s never a good idea to voluntarily agree to a search. Some officers might argue that if you have nothing to hid then you would allow the search. In most cases, you have the constitutional right to avoid an illegal search of your car. Understand your rights and stand on principle, even if you are innocent of any crimes.
Failing to understand your rights or making mistakes during a DUI stop could have severe consequences. Stay calm, don’t talk too much, and don’t voluntarily agree to field sobriety testing or a search of your car.
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