Time out drinking with friends is always fun until the police flag you down of your way back home. What often follows are deafening sirens and a flurry of questions from the law enforcement agents. They want to establish if you are sober enough to be driving on American roads. If they have any reason to suspect that you aren’t, they will prefer Driving Under Influence(DUI) charges against you.
In almost all states, DUI is treated as a misdemeanor. It carries a punishment of up to six months in a county jail. Other lesser punishments for DUI include fines, temporary or permanent withdrawal of your driving license, and confiscation of your vehicle. Besides the penalties handed by courts, DUI conviction has other implications. For example, your insurer might increase your insurance premiums as you are deemed to have a higher risk of causing an accident.
When the police flag you down suspecting you of DUI, the best decision you can make is to contact a DUI attorney. A DUI case involves many technicalities. Right from the moment you are flagged down, what you say and do could have a considerable effect on the outcome of the case.
Know your rights
When facing your DUI accusers, it’s imperative to know your rights and defend them. The police are a clever lot. You might have heard of cases where they asked “how many bottles did you take today?” in a manner so friendly that the driver can’t believe when the same people push him into a station the next moment. Sometimes, they will use threats of license withdrawal or jail term to force the driver to take sobriety tests. Unfortunately, some people don’t know that some of these tests are optional. You are less likely to fall into such traps if you engage a DUI attorney.
Field sobriety tests
These tests are meant to help the police establish if there is enough probable cause to prefer DUI charges against you. These tests are voluntary. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration(NHTSA) has endorsed three types of field sobriety tests:
- One-leg stand (OLS)
- Walk-and-turn (WAT)
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)
After failing or refusing to take the sobriety tests, the police might ask you to take another test known as a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test. This test is normally administered at the scene of the traffic stop. In entails blowing a handheld device to test your blood alcohol concentration. Like sobriety tests, this test is meant to help the police establish whether there’s enough probable cause to charge you. Per implied consent laws, you can refuse to take the PAS test at the scene of the traffic stop.
Breath and blood samples
These tests are usually conducted at the station. If the police ask you to submit these samples, it’s an indication that they believe there is enough probable to charge you. Unlike sobriety and PAS tests, providing a breath sample is not optional. If you refuse to provide the sample, your license could be revoked. Further, if the prosecutor submits that you refused to present a breath sample, it will deal a big blow to your chances of winning the case.
Nonetheless, you can refuse to present a blood sample. The law allows the police to insist on taking blood samples only when there’s a risk that evidence will be lost if they don’t do so. Also, they are allowed to collect blood samples if the accused isn’t able to consent to a breath test. Before deciding whether to charge you, the police will make many requests. A DUI lawyer will advise you on which requests you need to yield to.
If the case goes to trial
Like any other criminal trial, you remain innocent until proven guilty in a DUI case. How you argue out your case is a significant determinant of the outcome. For example, the offense could turn into a felony if the prosecution ties other aggravating factors to it, and the defendant could get a punishment as lenient as undergoing alcohol abuse training if they submit that they are first-time offenders. Further, if any of your rights were abused at any stage, it helps to let the court know.
The police may seem to have overwhelming evidence against you; but if you pay attention to every detail, you will get a favorable result. An experienced DUI attorney knows the magic lines of argument that win cases. They know when to plead guilty and when to put up a spirited fight. These attorneys can also quickly identify the rights that the police have abused.