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Tips and Tricks for Handling a DUI Stop

Orange County is crawling with police looking to make a DUI arrest. In fact, now there are even task forces exclusively dedicated to catching drunk drivers. Whether at a DUI checkpoint or a routine traffic stop, if you are stopped by law enforcement, you need to know how to conduct yourself.

There are countless reasons a police officer might stop your vehicle. Maybe you were speeding, maybe you were fatigued and drifted out of your lane, or maybe you were texting while driving.

Law enforcement can stop your vehicle for any suspected traffic violation as long as there is reasonable suspicion, or you are stopped at a legal DUI checkpoint.

If you are stopped, here's what you need to know:

  • Once you pull over, turn off your vehicle and place your hands on the steering wheel. If it is nighttime, you may want to turn on your interior vehicle lights. This will help law enforcement know that you are not a threat, and can reinforce the idea that you are coherent and not inebriated.
  • Don't argue. You may not agree with the officer's reason for pulling you over, but arguing makes your situation worse.
  • Only speak when spoken to. You may have the urge to explain yourself or justify your actions to the officer, but this has a better chance of annoying the officer than helping your case. Also, anything you say could be used to justify an arrest or criminal charge.
  • Avoid any admission of guilt. You are not required to admit any wrongdoing to the police officer. In fact, doing so could give the officer reason enough to issue you a ticket or administer field sobriety tests.

If the officer asks you to step out of your vehicle:

  • If the officer has enough reasonable suspicion to believe you may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they can ask you to step out of your vehicle for field sobriety testing.
  • You are not required by law to submit to these tests. Refusing to take the field sobriety tests may lead to an arrest, but this option avoids giving law enforcement additional evidence to support a DUI charge against you.

When is it lawful for police to search your car?

  • If you are stopped on suspicion of drunk or drugged driving, can the police search your vehicle? Law enforcement does not need a search warrant for a traffic stop, but they must have probable cause.
  • You have the right to refuse a police search of your person as well as your vehicle. While you can verbally express that you do not consent, avoid physically refusing consent. This can be taken as a sign of aggression and could even lead to a charge of assault on a police officer.

Before you leave, ask the officer if you are being detained. If the answer is no, they have to let you go. If the answer is yes, the officer must have a legitimate reason to suspect you of a crime.

To learn more about your rights at a DUI stop, contact an Orange County DUI attorney at the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. today.