There's a moment of shock, dread, and confusion that can engulf you when you see those flashing lights in your rearview mirror. If you've had a few drinks, these feelings are often compounded. But what do you do during a DUI stop? This blog post will provide a comprehensive guide to conducting yourself appropriately during a DUI stop to ensure you're respecting the law while also protecting your rights.
Before we dive in, it's crucial to understand the term 'DUI'. DUI stands for 'driving under the influence,' primarily referring to alcohol but also encompassing other substances that can impair your ability to drive safely. This act is illegal in all states and can lead to severe consequences.
1. Be Polite and Respectful
The tone of the interaction is often set from the moment the officer approaches your vehicle. Basic courtesy and respect towards law enforcement can go a long way in making the encounter go as smoothly as possible. Make sure to roll down your window and keep your hands where they can be seen, ideally on the steering wheel.
2. Provide Necessary Documentation
Upon request, present your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance. Having these documents readily available can minimize stress and unnecessary movements during the stop.
3. Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent
While it is important to cooperate with law enforcement, you have the right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination. While you should answer basic questions about your identification and vehicle registration, you're not obligated to discuss how much you've had to drink or where you're coming from. A good response is "Respectfully, officer, I am not going to participate in your investigation any more than I am required by law."
4. Field Sobriety Tests and Breathalyzer Tests
Officers often ask individuals to perform field sobriety tests or take a breathalyzer test during a DUI stop. While the law varies by state, in many cases, these tests are voluntary. However, declining may have legal implications, and you might still be arrested based on other evidence of impairment.
In Montana, there is an "implied consent" rule. This rule states that by driving in the state you agree to participate in field sobriety testing *as long as the officer has reason to believe you are driving under the influence*. If you decline to perform field sobriety maneuvers and the officer does have such reason (e.g., open container, admission of drinking, or impaired driving behavior), then you can lose your license for 6 months.
Doing the math on whether you should perform field sobriety maneuvers is tricky and extremely case dependent. If you feel you are below the legal limit, it is most likely in your best interest to perform maneuvers, but there is no broad strokes advice on this issue.
5. Contact a Lawyer
If you're arrested, it's critical to contact a DUI attorney as soon as possible. They can provide legal advice specific to your situation and represent you during any court proceedings.
6. Never Attempt to Flee or Resist Arrest
Attempting to evade the stop or resisting arrest can lead to additional charges and exacerbate the situation. Always stay calm, comply with the officer's instructions, and never get confrontational.
7. Never Attempt to Flee or Resist Arrest
It is imperative that you plead "Not Guilty" to open your case and give an attorney the opportunity to assess the State's evidence against you. Even if you feel as though you are guilty, you may be eligible for a reduction that protects your ability to drive and/or keeps you out of jail.
Remember, the best way to avoid a DUI stop is to avoid drinking and driving altogether. If you choose to drink, always designate a sober driver, use public transportation, or call a taxi or rideshare service.
Keep in mind that while this article provides a general guideline on how to handle a DUI stop, it does not constitute legal advice. Laws vary widely from state to state, and your specific situation may require a different approach. Always consult with a legal professional for advice pertaining to your situation.