If you have been drinking and are pulled over by an officer, no doubt you have a sinking feeling in your gut. You are instinctually panicking, wondering if tonight your life changes forever…
As a criminal defense attorney in Ventura County, I am routinely asked, "what should I do if I am pulled over" in scenarios like the one above. First, do not put yourself or anyone else at risk by driving while intoxicated; however, if you do end up in this situation, I would recommend that you do the following: when you see the red and blue lights do your best to calmly pull over without jerking the vehicle one way or another. Put your dome light on, roll down your windows and place your hands on the steering wheel so that the officers can see inside and not feel threatened. It is important to put the officers' safety concerns at ease as quickly as possible to make them more comfortable with you.
The officer will ask you for your license, registration and proof of insurance. These are all things you need to have to legally drive in the state of California and should be presented to the officer upon request. Try to have these items handy and avoid fumbling with them. Do not argue with the officer or demand to know the reason he interrupted your evening, he will tell you soon enough and you don't want him taking this investigation personally.
In Ventura County, the officer will next ask you a series of DUI-related questions such as "have you been drinking?" Or "is there anything wrong with your vehicle?" Or even the simple "do you know why I stopped you?" There is no correct answer that will help you and you do not need to engage in this question and answer session with the police officer. I recommend explaining to the officer that while you support your local law enforcement, you are extremely tired and would just like to get home. He will persist and then you will be more direct explaining that you appreciate his/ her service but do not want to answer any questions. Expect to be asked to step out of the vehicle at this point and do so in a slow, polite manner.
Next, in most DUI investigations, the officer will tell you that since you committed a vehicle code infraction he pulled you over and needs to have you do a series of Field Sobriety Tests. At this point, explain to him once again that while you support your local police department, you are very tired this evening and do not want to do any field sobriety tests. He will likely ask you again or start giving you directions. Be polite but firm and explain that you will not participate in the field sobriety tests.
The officer at this time will likely request that you give a "voluntary" breath sample to help him determine if you are under the influence on his P.A.S., or Preliminary Alcohol Screening, device. DO NOT. Explain to him that you do not wish to provide any voluntary evidence but will not refuse any "Mandatory" tests, meaning your chemical tests that you are required to provide under state law once arrested.
At this time, he will likely place you under arrest and give you the choice of Breath or Blood. Both tests have their issues, both positive and negative. Whatever you choose, cooperate and be polite to the officer.
If you can follow these steps, by the conclusion of the investigation the officer will have a driving pattern, no admissions or FSTs, and a chemical test. This is significantly less evidence to use against you later in court then if you have answered every question under the sun that they throw at you and certainly a better position to be in then if you were to perform the FSTs on the side of the road with by-standers and drivers passing by.
In the end, always do your best to follow the law and not put yourself in this sort of position. I recommend not driving at all if you have had anything at all to drink. The last thing you would ever want to have happen is to be in an accident or hurt someone because you were even remotely intoxicated. That said, if you do find yourself in this predicament I suggest you cooperate, follow the law and meet your obligations (provide license and other documents as well as a chemical tests) but do not volunteer anything that could be used against you in court.
Ventura County is one of the most aggressive in prosecuting DUIs. We have some of the most serious consequences including jail time and lengthy probationary terms imposed here routinely for even a first time DUI. If you, or a loved one, are facing a DUI arrest, please do not hesitate to contact our office at 805-324-6777 for a free consultation with an experienced DUI attorney in Ventura.