Drivers need to be aware that police are out in force looking to stop people for DUI/drunk driving, driving on a suspended license, unlicensed driving offenses and any other traffic offense they can use to make money for the State. The Cinco de Mayo holiday kicks off the spring and summer season with heavy police enforcement on the roads to limit DUI offenses and to issue more citations to generate revenue.
Here is what you should know:
The first thing to do once you are pulled over is to:
1. Pull over in a safe and well-lit place
2. Turn off the ignition
3. Turn on the overhead dome lights
4. Lower all windows (especially if tinted)
5. Retrieve your license and registration and have them on your lap
6. Keep both hands on the steering wheel where the officer can see them
7. Be polite and cooperative but not overly talkative.
It’s OK to say NO to the Officers Questions
If the officer asks if you’ve been drinking, you can say “NO.” Even if you’ve only had a single drink and know you are under the limit, you do not have to admit to drinking. If you admit to having even just one drink the police will likely order you out of the vehicle for a DUI investigation. You are not required to give the police information that will be used against you.
If they ask where you are coming from, you may politely decline to answer. If they ask when was the last time you had something to drink, you can say that you have not consumed alcohol in several days. Remember, you cannot get in trouble for lying about when you had a drink. The only thing you cannot lie about is your true legal name. Be sure to promptly provide your California driver’s license once requested to do so by police officers. While we don’t encourage dishonesty to the officers, understand that everything you say will be used against you.
If the police ask if you have consumed any marijuana, you can say “NO.” You do not need to disclose having a medical marijuana prescription.
If the police tell you to stare at a penlight or their finger so they can check your eyes, this is not a mandatory test. It is optional. If you’ve had even a single drink you will fail this test and they will likely order you out of the vehicle. When they request you to stare at the penlight, you can politely say that you respectfully decline to take any tests, but will cooperate in any way that you are legally required to. If your license is suspended or revoked and the police ask you about it, if you admit to knowing about the suspension it will strengthen their case against you. Once you’ve been ordered out of your car, you must comply and get out of the car.
The police will likely ask you to conduct field sobriety tests and will tell you that you will be on your way once you complete the tests. This is not entirely true. You are not required to do any sobriety tests. Even if you are an acrobat and believe you will ace every test, it’s typically advisable to decline all field sobriety testing.
You Can Decline Breathalyzer and Opt for Blood Test
If they ask you to blow into a handheld breathalyzer (known as the PAS – preliminary alcohol screening device), you can decline (unless you are on probation for a prior DUI). No matter what the police say, this is not a required test. The only required test during a DUI investigation is either a formal breath test (typically at the station on a larger machine, or in a trailer at a checkpoint) or a blood test. You can decline all other tests (unless on probation for DUI). If you have been drinking and have no drugs in your system, opt for the blood test. It will take longer for them to administer the test and your alcohol level will likely decline before the test.
Refusing both the formal breath test and the blood test generally leads to more severe punishment with the DMV and with court. Remember, in the eyes of the DMV it is better to have an alcohol level at five times the legal limit rather than refusing the test altogether. The suspension time on a first DUI is shorter if your alcohol level is extremely high than if you refuse the test altogether.
Be Cooperative and Never Argue
It is best to be completely cooperative with the police and to say as little as possible. Arguing never helps. You will not be able to talk your way out of it either. If you get arrested, CALL US IMMEDIATELY.
We have a track record of destroying these cases in court and with the DMV, so much so that we now represent many CHP and LAPD officers and their families when they are cited for DUI (yes, they get them too!).
If you’ve got a suspended license ticket, or have been cited for any other traffic violation and you want it cleared in court, give us a call and we will help you.
Our consultations are free and our results are priceless.
Hart J. Levin
Owner at the Law Offices of Hart J. Levin
LA’s Highest Rated DUI and Criminal Defense Firm