Stopped for a DUI (or other Traffic Offense)? 10 Things to Know

Ten tips when you're pulled over for a DUI or other traffic offense.

When you see that spinning gumball, it’s time to pull over. Here are ten things to keep in mind.

1. Pull over properly. Slow down and pull off the road, usually to the right, only when it is safe to do so. Use your turn signal to indicate your intent to the officer.

2. Stay in the car. Turn off the engine and if it is dark out, turn on the interior light and keep your hands on the steering wheel. Stay in the car unless the officer asks you to get out. This procedure is the least likely to raise concerns for the police officer (Remember the police know nothing about you, and you know nothing about any descriptions they’ve been given about cars and occupants involved in recent crimes.)

3. Don’t act suspicious. Avoid any actions that suggest that you are acting to hide, destroy or dispose of something. For example, if an officer sees you lean forward, the officer may think that you have hidden an object under the front seat. This may be enough for the officer to order you out of the car, pat you down and search under the front seat.

4. Follow instructions. Listen to what the officer is saying and follow the officer’s instructions. The officer is in charge of the situation and it’s not over until the officer tells you that you can drive off.

5. Use your mouth carefully. Don't volunteer information and don’t argue. Simply answer the officer’s questions, but don’t volunteer information or “mouth off.” Save your arguments for the courtroom and tell your passengers to follow the same rules.

6. You’re being observed. Nowadays, many police cars have equipment that visually records traffic stops. Even without the video, the police officer will be observing your behavior for the police report. Don’t act strangely or furtively.

7. How much did you drink? Police officers routinely ask this question and if you are like most people who have been drinking, you may say, “just a beer or two with dinner” or some other underestimation about how much you drank. That’s a mistake! It’s always best to remain silent or answer that you cannot recall exactly what you had to drink. Otherwise your “underestimations” could come back to haunt you at trial.

8. Think carefully about BAC testing. Think carefully about refusing to take a blood alcohol content (BAC) test. (Check out our BAC calculator) Every state has implied consent laws. That means that by acquiring a driver’s license you consent to BAC testing. Refusing to take such test may result in harsher consequences than consenting. However, if you are seriously intoxicated, it may be in your best interest not to take the test. Learn about the consequences of refusing a BAC test in your state.

9. Don’t volunteer. Some roadside tests are voluntary. For example, in many states you do not have to consent to “walk and turn” or “one leg stand” tests. Ask if a test is voluntary and if it is, you may refuse to take it.

10. When in doubt … If for some reason you have reason to doubt that the person who pulled you over is a police officer, ask to talk to a supervisor or say that you will follow the police officer to the police station.

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