How to handle a DUI traffic stop

Always be calm, polite, respectful, pleasant and cooperative. Never be aggressive, disagreeable, or overly emotional. Take a serious attitude – don’t make jokes, and also don’t apologize – anything the officer can use in his report about your attitude to make it seem like you were intoxicated, he will. So don’t give him anything to work with.

‘Cooperative’ does not mean agreeing to what the officer says. Politely decline most of the officer’s requests – to search your vehicle, to answer any questions or make any statements before speaking privately with an attorney, to waive your right to have samples saved, to take the FSTs, etc. See more about some of these below.

Chemical Tests: One exception to the above is taking a chemical test of your breath, blood or urine. There is no point in refusing; the law says you are obliged to submit (and you agreed when you got or renewed your driver’s license). And if you don’t take the test, your license will automatically be suspended for 12 months.

FSTs: Usually if an officer has stopped your vehicle for suspicion of DUI, whether you will be arrested is not affected by refusing to take the field sobriety tests (FSTs). So even if the officer implies you might be able to avoid arrest by taking the FSTs, politely decline.

FSTs include walking the line, touching your finger to your nose, counting on your fingers, saying your ABCs, holding your leg up while counting, and HGN, where the officer asks you to follow a light with your eyes. Most likely the officer has already made up his mind to arrest you and just wants to be able to write more in his report to establish probable cause. It can be better for you in the long run and can even get your case dismissed if you don’t help him establish probable cause for your arrest.

Doing field tests is giving evidence that will almost certainly be used against you (fairly or not). There is no law requiring you to do these tests. So the better option is usually to politely decline to perform the FSTs.

Vehicle Search: If an officer suggests searching your car or asks you if it’s okay, say no politely. Don’t feel a need to explain or make an excuse. Unless the officer gets a search warrant, you have a right to your privacy. Just say no, you won’t agree to that.

Remain Silent: Politely refuse to answer questions. In addition, don’t volunteer any comments or explanations. The officer will probably ask you a few things at the scene and go into more questions at the station. The questions might seem harmless or straightforward, but your best response is: “I would like to speak to an attorney in private before I answer any questions.” Whether you call an attorney then or later, as soon as you make that statement, it invokes your constitutional rights to remain silent and to eventually see an attorney.

Preserve a Sample: If you are given any chemical test, always ask that a sample be preserved so that you can have it retested later if you want. If the officer asks you to waive preserving a sample, don’t agree. Read anything the officer asks you to sign to make sure you aren’t waiving your right to preserve a sample (or any other of your rights).

Do Your Own Test: As soon as you are released, you can go to a hospital, lab or doctor to have your own test done immediately. This can be a re-test of the sample taken by the state’s lab, or if not too much time has elapsed, you can provide another sample. If your BAC tests lower, you can use that in your defense. You don’t have to disclose your results if they are not favorable to you.

Had a recent traffic stop? Call us for a free consultation any time, day or night. We at Ariano & Associates, PLLC recognize that matters of legal concern do not always arise between 9 and 5 during your typical business week. That is why we provide client access to our attorneys 24 hours, 7 days a week, by live online chat, online case reviews, email and telephone.