No one should ever operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Impaired drivers were responsible for 122 highway fatalities in 2018, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration – or nearly one out of every four traffic deaths that year in Maryland.
DUI convictions and charges often result in devastating personal and financial consequences. But, too often, improper actions by police, or faulty tests or testing procedures lead to severe consequences for drivers. That’s why it’s crucial to be prepared if you are stopped.
What happens during a DUI stop?
While each case is different, there are typical procedures. These include:
- Being pulled over: Officers can only stop a driver for a valid reason, such as a broken taillight, speeding or violating other traffic laws, or for “reasonable suspicion,” which in many cases may be unreasonable.
- Officer observation: After the stop, the officer will ask for your license and registration and closely observe your demeanor, dexterity and speech and try to determine whether odors, such as alcohol or marijuana, are present.
- Questioning: Officers almost always ask a driver if they’ve been drinking. While it’s advisable to be polite to an officer, you do not have to answer these questions without an attorney present.
- Roadside tests: An officer who believes a driver is drunk will ask them to perform field sobriety tests that seek to measure balance, eye movement and the ability to follow instructions. Sober people with medical conditions or using prescribed medications often fail these tests.
- Breath tests: Breathalyzers seek to determine whether a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is over the legal limit of 0.08%. Refusing to take this test can bring separate charges resulting in an automatic suspension of driving privileges. These tests are often inaccurate, and officers may lack the proper training to administer them.
If an officer determines probable cause exists for a DUI arrest, they must inform you of your rights, including contacting an attorney. They may also request a blood draw in an attempt to measure BAC.
Document everything and call an attorney
If an officer stops you, it’s essential to take copious notes of everything that happens. Even if you had a couple of drinks before getting behind the wheel, do not admit to being drunk. Do not submit to questioning before contacting an experienced DUI defense attorney.
Your lawyer will challenge whether officers had the right to pull you over in the first place as well as examining any evidence put forth by prosecutors. An aggressive attorney can help reduce charges and penalties or, in some cases, have the charges dropped.