Pulled Over for DUI?
It happens to all of us. One second we’re driving down the road, the next second there is a flashing light and a siren behind us. Although these encounters, and the cases that evolve from them, are rarely pleasant, they don’t have to be unpleasant or nightmarish. Whether you are stopped for a simple traffic violation, DUI or for suspicion of driving drunk, drugged or otherwise impaired, here are some tips to keep in mind if one ever happens to you.
1. Do not discuss the facts of your case with anyone except your lawyer, ever. You have the absolute right, protected by the Constitution, to remain silent. Take advantage of it. You do not have to say anything and saying something is almost always a bad idea. That includes your family and friends. Anything you say to them could come back to haunt you if your case ever went to trial. The only person you can talk to with guaranteed confidentiality is your lawyer.
2. “Innocent until proven guilty” isn’t just a cool catch-phrase - it’s the law. The Commonwealth has to prove you did it; you do not have to prove you didn’t. You do not have to convince the officer or the judge that you weren’t speeding, it is up to the Commonwealth to prove that you were. Don’t help them by trying to prove something that you don’t have to prove.
3. If a police officer asks to search you or your car, you do not have to say yes. A police officer can be an intimidating presence. It’s hard to say no when he/she asks to search your car or your purse. But you can. If he asks, “Do you mind if I search your trunk?” You have every right to say “Yes I do mind. Please don’t”. Even worse don’t say anything like: “Gee Officer, I don’t have anything on me; see for yourself”. Bad idea.
4. Keep your hands where the police officer can see them — 10 and 2 on the steering wheel is best. The Officer who stops you doesn’t know you from Charles Manson and he wants to go home at the end of his workday, just like you do. Don’t give him any reason to be nervous about safety. Make sure the officer knows where your hands are at all times. Don’t use those minutes when he’s sitting in his squad car running your plates to reach into your glove box to find your registration. For all he knows, you may be reaching for a gun.
5. Be polite. You may believe that you have done absolutely nothing wrong and you may believe that the officer stopped you for any of a number of dishonorable reasons. But the street is no place to argue about those reasons. You may not know all of the facts that the officer had at his disposal when he decided to pull you over. Maybe someone driving a car just like yours was just seen accosting a minor. You would have no way of knowing that, but the officer would. If the stop was indeed improper or illegal, then you and your lawyer can help the judge reach that conclusion later on in court and then, by all means, hold the officer accountable. But don’t take the officer on at the scene. It will always end badly for you if you do. It is impressive how many additional officers can come out of the woodwork if you become a problem. So being polite means being safe.
Most importantly, if the police officer takes you into custody, do not say anything to him about your case or the facts of your case. Retain the services of an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately. He or she will be the only person guaranteed to be on your side when your freedom is at stake.