Your heart is pounding and you’re starting to sweat a little as the blue and red lights flash in your rearview mirror. As you panic, you ask yourself, “Was I speeding? How much did I have to drink?” If you’ve ever been arrested for a DUI, this scene is probably familiar to you. Hopefully you’ll never be in this position, but if you are, any criminal defense/dui attorney will tell you that handling it correctly is absolutely critical to coming through the situation relatively intact.
Don’t Try To Talk Your Way Out of It
The most important thing to understand when you’re being stopped for a suspected DUI is this: who makes decisions, and how? Specifically, it is NOT the police officer’s job to decide whether or not you were driving under the influence; that’s a job for the court. The police officer’s job is just to decide whether or not they believe you were driving under the influence, and nothing you say is going to change his or her mind on that point—so DON’T try to talk yourself out of the situation. That will only make your problem worse.
Skip the Field Sobriety Test
Instead, your best bet is to accept that there is nothing left you can do about what is going to happen: you’re going to be arrested, and most likely charged with a DUI. And since that’s going to happen anyway, you should politely decline to participate in a Field Sobriety Test. In America you are innocent until proven guilty, and being arrested and being convicted are two very different things. If you keep your wits about you during your arrest, you have a much better chance at beating the charges!
Say The Bare Minimum
Instead of trying to talk your way out of being arrested, it’s usually best to go by the ‘driver’s license’ test, which means if the information isn’t written on your driver’s license, don’t give it to the police. Tell them your name and where you live, but if they start to ask you about how much you’ve had to drink, how much you’ve slept, and questions like that, tell them firmly but politely that you won’t answer questions without speaking to an attorney. Saying that almost certainly means you’ll be arrested, but as we pointed out, that’s going to happen anyway…at least you won’t have given the police any information they can use against you in court.
Blood Alcohol Testing
After you’re arrested, the police will take you to a jail to have your Blood-Alcohol Content (or BAC) tested. Many times after you submit to the BAC test the police will release you to someone who can come and pick you up, but if your BAC is especially high or if there is something else more serious about your arrest you may have to spend the night in jail.
The police will also confiscate your driver’s license and notify the Motor Vehicle Department, which will suspend your license. The police should give you a temporary license that is valid until your court date.
Between your release and your court date, you should seek qualified legal counsel. You should also do everything you can to show the court that you’re taking the situation very seriously—go see a drug and alcohol counselor, and attend as many Alcoholics Anonymous meetings as you can.
At your court date, the judge will read the charges against you and ask you to enter a plea (such as guilty, not guilty, or no contest). Depending on everything you have done up until this point, your attorney will have different options on how to proceed. Ideally, you won’t have said anything to the police that they can use against you and they won’t have much solid evidence. You and your attorney might decide to fight the charges, or you may be able to work out a plea deal with the District Attorney to plead guilty to a lesser charge that doesn’t involve alcohol, since even a first DUI offense in Arizona comes with a mandatory minimum of 24 hours in jail.
Being pulled over and arrested for a DUI is a terrible experience, but it’s not the end of the world. There are lots of things you can do to improve your situation, and with the help of an expert attorney you should be able to come through the ordeal intact. If you’ve been arrested for a DUI and need to speak with an attorney, call us today to set up a free legal consultation!
Posted in: Drunk Driving