July 4th DUI Tips
DUI Tips – Independence Day is about celebration, but for too many it becomes the anniversary of their first DUI. If you are drinking tonight (or all day) please don’t drive. Even drinking a small amount puts you at risk of being arrested if you get pulled over and “fail” a field sobriety test. As an attorney I’ve had to defend too many people in court whose blood alcohol level was under .08% (California’s legal limit). Know that the law does not require your blood alcohol level to be over the limit to be convicted. There is a section in the vehicle code under which you can be prosecuted and convicted with any amount of alcohol (or drug) in your system if the officer alleges that you were impaired such that you could not drive with the same caution as a sober person. This is very subjective making it very easy to justify an arrest, especially on nights like July 4th and New Years Eve when there are check points all over the city.
If you get pulled over tonight or stopped at a checkpoint know that you have the right to refuse a field sobriety test (FST). In my eight years of criminal defense experience I have NEVER read a police report where the officer indicates that the driver “passed” a FST. The test is administered in a way that helps police observe everything about you and collect enough information to find you “impaired” and convict you. Even on their best day most people have trouble balancing on one leg for 30 seconds or walking in a straight line “heel to toe” without using their arms to balance. The best thing to do when asked to do a field sobriety test is to refuse. You have the right to refuse so use it.
You can also refuse the interview. If you’ve been drinking and the officer asks you how much you’ve had to drink you can simply ask “are you detaining me or am I free to go?” The cop then has to decide at that moment if there is enough evidence to arrest you. If he doesn’t have enough to arrest then he has to let you go or keep you talking to get more information. If you engage in lengthy conversation the officer will make “observations” to determine your sobriety, or lack thereof. If you admit to drinking then you have bolstered the case against you so keep your mouth shut or ask politely again “am I being detained, or may I leave?”
The best way to stay out of trouble tonight is to NOT DRINK AND DRIVE. Call a cab. That will be safer and much cheaper than the $7,500 in DUI fines, fees and legal costs. If you insist on drinking and driving and get stopped by police then keep your mouth shut, refuse the field sobriety test, and call me if you get arrested. If you feel tipsy you can also call AAA who has a tispy tow hotline tonight that will get you and your car home safe (1-800-400-4222).
Have a happy and safe 4th of July.