It doesn’t take much for a police officer to pull you over on a Saturday night. Maybe your car’s taillight is out. Maybe you missed a stop sign. Maybe you swerved a little too much on your last turn. Before you know it, you see flashing red lights in your mirror. You also realize that police may suspect you have been driving drunk.
What if you did have a few drinks with a friend earlier? How should you handle this likely OUI/DUI stop?
Handling an OUI stop
First, if any time police pull you over, you want to stop quickly, pulling off into a safe spot as soon as possible. Then you want to:
· Roll down your window
· Get your license, registration, and proof of insurance ready
· Put your two hands on your steering wheel
When the officer questions you, you don’t need to say much. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. You can say your name and hand the officer your documents. You want to be courteous, but you don’t have to tell police where you are going or where you came from. You instead tell the officer you are invoking your right to stay silent, part of your Miranda Rights to avoid incriminating yourself.
To test or not to test?
If the police suspect you are driving drunk, an officer next may ask you to take a field sobriety test. However, these tests are highly subjective and frequently those who are sober fail them. You also have no obligation to take a field sobriety test, so you can politely decline.
If you decline taking the field sobriety test, the officer likely will ask you to take a breathalyzer test. You need to understand three things about breathalyzer tests:
1. If you submit to one and your blood alcohol level registers .08, you will give police evidence to charge and possibly convict you of operating while intoxicated (OWI).
2. If you submit to the breathalyzer test, it may be inaccurate. In 2018, Massachusetts threw out thousands of breathalyzer tests because of faulty results.
3. If you don’t submit to a breathalyzer test, you won’t provide police of evidence for OWI charges. Yet, you will face a minimum six-month driver’s license suspension (the suspension will last longer if you are under 21 or you have a prior OWI conviction or breathalyzer refusal).
If you do end up facing OWI charges after a police stop, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You want to do all you can to avoid a drunk driving conviction and the harsh penalties that come with it.