You're coming home from dinner or a night out after having some drinks and you see blue lights in your rear view mirror. What should you do? From the moment the officer hits the lights, every move you make will be scrutinized as the officer begins making observations to support the officer's predisposition to believe you're driving under the influence. The officer is now set on a path to gather evidence to build a case...THIS CANNOT BE OVEREMPHASIZED. It is critical to follow these 10 steps:
1. Safely pull over. Promptly and safely pull over to the right using your turn signal, safely come to a stop on the side of the road, and turn off your vehicle.
2. Produce your license, registration and proof of insurance. Know where your proof of insurance and registration are and promptly retrieve it and provide it to the officer after you are asked to produce them along with your license.
3. Record your conversation with the officer. Be polite and use your cell phone to record your conversation with the police officer in the car (yes, this is legal and no, you do not have to tell the officer you are recording the conversation). You should have a recording app on your cell phone home screen and start recording before the officer gets to your car.
4. Briefly explain your driving if asked. Be prepared to politely and briefly tell the officer why you were pulled over if asked. For example, you may be lost, tired from work, distracted by passengers, trying to get home to your children, tuning your stereo, etc.
5. Tell the officer you've been advised not to answer questions. If the officer asks if you have been drinking, politely tell the officer that you have been advised not to answer any questions.
6. Politely decline field sobriety tests. If the officer asks you to do voluntary field sobriety tests, politely tell the officer that you've been advised not to, although you must step out from the vehicle if asked. DO NOT let the officer try to persuade you to do field sobriety tests to see if you are ok to drive home as this is a ruse.
7. Politely decline to submit to a roadside portable breath test. If the officer asks you whether you will submit to a roadside portable breath test (PBT) politely tell the officer that you've been advised not to. Again do not let the officer persuade you to do this i.e. "I just want to see if you're safe to drive."
8. Do not resist being arrested. If the officer places you under arrest, politely submit and cease answering any further questions or having any further conversation with the officer. This includes small talk at the scene, in the police car, or at the station. Your car will be towed pursuant to state law and can be retrieved after 12 hours.
9. Exercise your right to have a private conversation with an attorney at the station. At the station, the police officer will advise you of your right to talk to an attorney which you MUST exercise either by calling an attorney of your choice or the on call public defender (they will have this number). You should not refuse to talk to the public defender if you cannot talk to a private attorney. The attorney will have a conversation with you about whether to submit to a breath test and advise you on your options.
10. Lastly, call an experienced DUI attorney immediately upon being released. Most lawyers, including yours truly, are available weekends, holidays, and after hours.