What To Do in a DUI Stop

DUIs are a scary thing, and with the recent law change in Utah it is much more likely you could be facing one. If convicted, a DUI could mean the loss of your license; as well as fines and even some jail time. With all this at stake the best thing to do is make sure you're not driving drunk. However, if you find yourself in the situation where you have ignored that advice. Then the next best thing is to know your rights. DUI stops are often the same or similar for everyone. So its worth knowing what you may be dealing with if you end up in that spot.

What Are Your Rights?

The first thing you should know is which things do you have to do, and which can you refuse. In most DUI stops the officer has pulled you over because he/she has witnessed a traffic violation. It is also possible the officer has a reasonable suspicion of other criminal activity, but most common is a traffic violation. Almost everyone commits a handful of traffic offenses in their normal driving behavior which could warrant a traffic stop. So if you've been stopped you really can't do anything about it at that moment. Law enforcement will then approach your vehicle and ask for your license and registration. Often times they'll ask you why you think they pulled you over or something along those lines. This is simply an invitation to admit that you're guilty and you can just tell them that you do not know why.

At this time if the officer believes he/she has seen signs of inebriation (blood shoot eyes, odor of alcohol, slurred speech, etc.), then they will ask you to step out of the vehicle. Now keep in mind that this entire process is an investigation. The purpose of this investigation is the officer is attempting to collect as much evidence as possible. The reason they want evidence is to be able to convict you with said evidence. So the less evidence you give them the better. Of course they will likely be able to obtain some evidence regardless of whether or not you offer it up. But there is no reason to rat yourself out or willingly give up evidence that you do not need to. Therefore, you have the right to refuse to perform field sobriety tests (FSTs), if you so choose.


Field Sobriety Tests

FSTs usually consist of three tests that are meant to gauge the level of impairment of an individual. The most commonly used tests are a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN), Walk and Turn, and One Leg Stand. If an individual can't do those specific tests, often because of physical injuries or limitations. Then they may ask you to do other tests like reciting the alphabet backwards. The important thing to know about FSTs is that very few people pass, regardless of their level of impairment. The real thing to worry about from a defense perspective is that if you do so poorly on the FSTs (stumbling drunk) that the video could be used at trial to really nail home how drunk you were.

If you refuse to take the FSTs the officer may threaten to arrest you for not performing them. However, it is very possible he/she will arrest you either way. So this threat may not actually have that much weight in the long run. Either way its ultimately up to you whether or not you take the FSTs. If you do take them then you will be providing more evidence that could possibly help convict you at trial.

One final note is that if you are being especially difficult, in your refusal or your overall behavior. You could face an additional charge of obstruction of justice, or resisting arrest. So its a fine line between not incriminating yourself and not incurring additional charges. You don't have to actively hurt your case, but you also don't have to be a jerk.

What You Do NOT Have the Right to Refuse

After the officer completes FSTs and usually has you blow into a portable breathalyzer test (PBT) then you will either be let go or arrested. If they arrest you then the officer will normally take you back to the jail or their command post to do additional testing. Your car will be impounded and you will be spending the next couple of hours in custody. The next round of testing is very important because this testing you do not have the right to refuse. Once back at the station/jail the officer will ask you to perform a blood, breath, or urine test. Normally its either blood or breath. Even if you did a breath test at the side of the road you still have to take whatever test they request of you at this point.

In Utah the legislature has stated that anyone that drives on the roads of Utah has consented to this type of testing. Therefore, if you refuse to take the test at this time then two things will happen. First, the officer will obtain a warrant (very quickly) to draw your blood, by force if necessary. Second, because you have refused, the Driver's License Division (DLD) will likely suspend your driver's license for 18 months or longer. This is a very crucial part of the DUI process that very few people understand. More people end up refusing at this point than you would think. This is often because the individual has already dealt with so much and is just tired of the whole process and wants to be done.

So its important that you know that while you can refuse some things throughout the stop you must submit to whatever test they ask of you once they've taken you back to the jail/station.

Dealing With Your DUI Charge

If you've made the mistake of ignoring my first line of counsel, which is don't drive drunk, then don't ignore the rest of my counsel. Know what your rights are, and how to minimize the negative results of your stupid mistake. Finally, my last bit of advice is don't make your mistakes worse and think you can handle this all on your own. I offer free consultations and would be happy to help you understand the process and let you know how I could help you fix the mess you've made, and if you haven't actually made a mistake, then even more reason to give me a call.