Every story begins the same way. I was out with some friends, we had a couple of drinks, and on the way home I was pulled over by the cops. From there, it usually goes one of two ways, either "he asked me some questions and let me go," or "he asked me some questions, asked me to get out of the car and after doing some tests arrested me for DUI." In some cases, the people may have had exactly the same amount to drink. So why did one person get arrested and one person let go? That is what this article will try to explain.
Let me begin by saying I don't condone drunk driving. It is dangerous to the driver, their passengers, and others on the road, and it should not be done. But, it is possible to drink and drive without being drunk. Where this line is crossed no one really knows for sure (even the breath test doesn't measure if you are able to drive a car soundly, it just measures the amount of alcohol in your blood or breath). There may be instances where a person has had a drink but is not too impaired to drive a vehicle. It is at those times that this article attempts to address how best to deal with police officers. If you are too drunk to drive, I hope you are arrested for DUI and taken off the road.
Also, before I really get into this, let me remind you that this is not legal advice that should be relied upon without independent consultation with a lawyer. I am from Seattle, Washington, so much of this will be based on what I know of Seattle DUI cases and laws. They may or may not apply in your state, and they may or may not apply even in Seattle. The state of the law changes fast enough that you should consult an attorney before making any important decisions. The information here is helpful guidance to understand where the police are coming from and how best to deal with them.
The first thing to understand is that when the police pulled you over, unless you were really drunk and weaving all over the place, they at that time do not have the authority to arrest you for DUI. At that time you have probably violated some minor traffic law that lets them pull you over and check you out. Although it doesn't seem fair, and it probably isn't (since if you aren't exhibiting symptoms of drunk driving there is no reason to get you off the road), it is allowed. You just have to deal with it. With this in mind, as the officer begins to approach you it is important to focus on providing him with as little information as possible that will lead him to believe you may be under the influence of alcohol.
Now, I am not suggesting that you lie. But, just as the officer has pulled you over for a traffic violation in hopes of busting you for drunk driving (using the rules to his advantage), you can take actions that are well within the law that benefit you. The first thing you must do is be courteous and respectful to the officer. He has a right to ask you for identification and proof of insurance. Give him that information. After that, everything you tell him is at your discretion.
So what do you do if he asks if you've been drinking? Easy. Simply say "I would prefer not to answer that question," and leave it at that. Now, does that make you look guilty? Absolutely not. What it looks like is you know how to exercise your constitutional rights. And don't worry about what the cop thinks. If he's asking you questions about your night, he's already got the idea in his head of giving you a DUI and is just looking for enough information to justify probable cause to arrest you.
What is probable cause? It is a reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime. Violating a traffic violation doesn't provide enough information to constitute probable cause for drunk driving. Why give him the information he needs?
So, the officer has heard you decline his questions and asks you to step out of the car to take field sobriety tests. At this point, I would consider flatly telling him you'd like to call your attorney to see if you should consent. In Seattle, for example, field sobriety tests are viewed as a search, and because of that, you can decline them with no repercussions. That is important, as it gives the officer less information to work with. And remember, just don't talk to the guy. At some point he has to let you go or arrest you for DUI without (probably) enough evidence to constitute probable cause.