California generally, and the San Francisco Bay Area in particular, is cracking down on DUIs. Not only are there local police officers, county sheriff's deputies, and California Highway Patrol officers, but there are also specialized, inter-agency task forces dedicated to making DUI arrests. Knowing how to conduct yourselfwhen contact by law enforcement officers – regardless of whether it's a routinetraffic stop or DUI checkpoint – is the first step in your defense! Yes, we all hope for the best, but it's always a good idea to prepare for the worst, and in this case, that is being arrested for a DUI.
Law Enforcement officers can stop your vehicle for any number of different reasons. Perhaps you were driving over the posted speed limit, or you forgot to signal a lanechange; maybe your registration tag expired, or the light bulb illuminating your license plate was burnt out – as long as the police reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation, or if it is a lawful DUI checkpoint, they can stop you.
Here is what you need to know if you are stopped:
- Once you pull over safely to the side of the road, turn off your vehicle andkeep your hands on top of the steering wheel. If it's at night, you may wantto turn the interior dome light on, making it easier for the officer to see you and know you are not a threat to his or her safety. Remember, at this point, the officer has no idea who you are; you could be the person who lives down the street, or a wanted criminal – acting calmly and safely will not only put the officer at ease, but may also show the officer you are coherent and not intoxicated.
- Do not attempt to argue with the officer. You might disagree with the officer's reason to pull you over (“I wasn't speeding!”), but doing so will only escalate the tension and make matters worse for you.
- Resist the urge to explain or justify yourself. Not only will this merely annoy the officer, thus making things worse for you, but you run the risk of saying something that will be used to justify placing you under arrest and charging you with a crime.
- Only speak when spoken to, and avoid any admission of guilt (“I only had acouple of beers, Officer”). You do not have to admit anything to the officer, and doing so will just give the officer a reason to arrest you.
- If the officer asks you to step out of the car and perform some Field SobrietyTests (FSTs) and blow into a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) device, remember these tests are voluntary and you do not need to take them UNLESS you are either under 21 years of age, or on Probation for a previous DUI conviction. Refusing to do so may result in your arrest, but it avoids giving law enforcement extra evidence to justify charging you with a DUI. (Remember you must submit to a “chemical test” – either by taking a Breath Test or submitting to a Blood Draw – but only after being placed under arrest.)
- If you are arrested, continue to cooperate and do not physically resist. Todo so may increase the chances of the officer(s) using force, and could even lead to you being charged with resisting arrest.
To learn more about your rights if stopped for a DUI, contact Alameda and ContraCosta DUI Attorney Lynn Gorelick.