Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What Happens After I am Pulled Over for DUI in DC?

Most DUI traffic stops start off like every other traffic stop with some kind of traffic infraction.  Generally speaking, police officers do not pull over cars specifically because they believe the driver of the car is under the influence.  Obviously there are situations where an individual's driving is so erratic that the police's first thought is DUI, but that is usually not the case.  Because most DUI stops start with a traffic infraction, one of the best ways to avoid being arrested for DUI is to ensure that you are following ALL traffic regulations.  Obeying all traffic laws will go a long way when trying to avoid a DUI arrest.

Once an officer pulls over a car for a traffic infraction, the officer will approach the driver's side of the vehicle and engage the driver in conversation.  "License and registration please" is usually the first line out of an officer's mouth.  Usually if an officer is going to investigate someone for DUI they will make that decision within the first 10 seconds of conversation.  The officer will detect an odor of alcohol coming off the driver's breath, or they will observe that the driver's eyes are bloodshot or watery.  Also, if a person is under the influence, their behavior will be altered, and a police officer will pick up on that behavior right away.

When a police officer believes you may be driving under the influence they will start asking questions, "where are you coming from?", "where are you headed?"  "have you been drinking?" "how much have you been drinking?"  Generally the answers to these questions are irrelevant, they are really meant to provide the officer with additional opportunities to assess your demeanor. 

Once the questioning stops, the officer will most likely ask you to step out of your vehicle.  Everything you do from this point forward will determine whether you are arrested for DUI.  The officer will scrutinize your every movement.  They will take note of how you exit the car, whether you lean on the door or the side of the car for support, they will assess your balance upon exit as well as any and all other movements you make. 

After exiting your vehicle, the officer will most likely ask if you will consent to the administration of Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFSTs).  SFSTs are a series of three sobriety tests developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  When administered properly, these tests can be reasonably accurate in determining whether an individual has a blood alcohol level above the legal limit.  The test include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (an eye test), the Walk and Turn Test (basically walk the line) and the One Leg Stand Test (self-explanatory).  Based upon the results of those tests, along with any other observations made by the officer, a decision will be made whether to place you under arrest for DUI. 

If placed under arrest, you will be taken back to the police station.  Once at the station you will interact with additional officers, all of which will also be assessing whether or not they believe you are under the influence.  Further, you will be asked whether you will consent to chemical testing.  This testing can either be breath, blood or urine.  Those tests, if performed correctly, will definitively show whether or not your blood alcohol level was above the legal limit.  After chemical testing concludes you most likely will either be released with a date to return to court or you will be held by the police and brought before a judge the next day.

If you have been arrested for Driving Under the Influence contact Sean J. Farrelly for a full and free consultation.

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