What should I do if I consumed a few drinks and get pulled over?Whenever you are planning on having a couple drinks, I highly recommend you find alternative transportation or plan to use a designated driver. In Washington State, it is possible to get a DUI even if you blow under the limit of 0.08, requiring one to be extra careful. However, it is quite common to have a few drinks at a friend's house or restaurant and drive home. Because of the easiness to blow over the legal limit, a DUI charge tends to be a numbers game, where 28% of people at some point of their life will receive one. You should not feel like a bad person or immediately plead guilty. It is important to consult with an attorney in order to know your options.
What should I do when the police officer starts asking me a lot of questions?
Generally, people will get pulled over for a traffic infraction or because of reasonable suspicion. When pulled over for a traffic infraction the officer is limited to asking for ID, checking for warrants, making sure you have insurance and registration, and potentially writing a ticket. In order for the initial stop to turn into a DUI and arrest the officer needs probable cause. This is commonly done by your behavior, smell of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, and any tests you agree to. It is their obligation to show probable cause for your arrest, and you should not assist them in this. Be calm and give short responses to their questions, as you do not need to explain yourself. If you have any illnesses or injuries you should mention these in your answers. If you decide not to answer any more questions politely say so, as you are not under an obligation to do so.
How should I respond to a request to do field sobriety tests?
If a police officer asks you to step out of the car and do these field tests, the officer likely believes at this point that you are under the influence of alcohol/drugs. You are not required to take them. If you wish, you can politely tell the officer you do not wish to do these tests and that you would only be willing to do a chemical sample, if necessary. Most people fail these tests no matter what, and they may just provide more evidence against you.
What about a request to blow into a portable device?
You are not required to take the portable breath test, and may instead ask to take the official test at the station. If you are confident you are under the limit you can agree to take the portable breath test. If you blow over the legal limit, the officer will find this to be sufficient probable cause to arrest you. Because of the inaccuracy of this test, it is generally not allowed into evidence if you go to court.
Should I request a blood sample instead of a breath test?
A blood sample is much more accurate than the breath test, however, there are ways to attack the validity of the sample. The advantages to a blood sample is that it will take much longer for a sample to be taken. Therefore, your BAC may have fallen by then. However, do not request this option if you are likely well over the limit.
Do I need to take the breath test at the station?
Yes, there are automatic consequences if you do not take this test.
What happens next?
You should contact me the next day after the incident, and I will explain the process and options.
Luke Larson, Attorney & Counselor at Law