Stopped for DWI or DUI? (What Defense Lawyers Say to Do and Not to Do)

If you’re stopped for DWI, it’s too late to lower your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). And if it’s at an illegal level, you will be arrested. Call a defense attorney right away to protect your rights. Preferably one who specializes in DWI defense.

I. Your BAC


I.  Your BAC

II. Stopped for DWI

III.The Officer’s Perspective

IV. Resources

You want to avoid being stopped for DWI. So the first order of business is to keep your BAC at safely low limits. This not only reduces the risk of DUI or DWI arrest, it also reduces the risk of crashes.

But having a legal BAC doesn’t entirely prevent such arrests. That’s because police in many states can arrest drivers for impaired driving even when they have legal BACs.

The risk of arrest increases as the actual BAC is nearer and nearer the illegal level. This is because breathalyzers often generate false readings.

Breathalyzers don’t actually measure BAC. That requires analysis of a sample of the driver’s blood. Instead, the devises only indirectly estimate it. And many, many things can cause an erroneous estimate. Discover more at Accuracy of Breathalyzers: A Threat to Law-Abiding Drivers.

stopped for dwi

Standard Drinks

Therefore, it’s important to keep your BAC well below the illegal level. Don’t let an inaccurate breathalyzer estimate unfairly nail you. Pace your alcoholic drinks to a maximum of one per hour. Remember that standard drinks have the same amount of alcohol. Eat plenty of food while drinking. And alternate alcoholic with non-alcoholic drinks. And consider buying a personal alcohol breath tester. Learn more practical ways to keep a low BAC.

II. Stopped for DWI or DUI

stopped for dwiWhen you see the blinking lights and siren of a police car, put on your directional signal. Then drive your car safely well off the roadway onto the shoulder. If you’re a woman and it’s dark, you can put on your hazard (blinking) lights. Then slowly drive to a well-lighted area.

Stop your engine and stay inside the vehicle. If it’s dark, you might turn on your dome light. Then roll down your window and keep both hands on the steering wheel. You want the officer to realize that you’re not a threat.

This website strongly opposes DWI and other impaired driving. However, it also strongly supports the U.S. Constitution and the rights it provides both the innocent and the guilty.

The officer will ask for your license, registration, and proof of insurance. Make no sudden moves. If your registration and insurance cards are in the glove compartment, tell the the officer that. Ask for permission to open it. If your license is in your purse, tell the officer that before you reach for it.

Drivers must produce their driving license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance when requested. You should do so politely and with respectful deference. “Here they are, officer.”

Remain Silent

Defense attorneys strongly urge people not to provide any additional information. Watch Never Talk to the Police: Here’s Why.

stopped for dwiDale Carson is a former police officer and FBI agent. He’s now a defense attorney and author of Arrest-Proof Yourself. He suggests printing a card with the following or similar statement to hand to the officer.

Officer, I’d like to answer your questions, but my attorneys told me that I should not say anything unless one of them is present.

What if the officer asks who your lawyer is? Simply say that you can’t answer that without your lawyer with you.

Any officer who pulls you over thinks you are probably intoxicated and is conducting a criminal investigation. The effort is to get enough evidence to arrest you. Remember, if the officer had all the evidence needed, there would be no questions.

That’s precisely why defense lawyers say to politely provide the needed documents and then answer no questions. Presenting the card above is much easier and safer than talking. It’s all too easy to get nervous and say the wrong thing.

The officer can require you to take a breathalyzer (BAC estimating test). You have a Constitutional right to refuse. But if you do, the state usually imposes higher penalties than if you take it and fail.

Field Sobriety Test

On the other hand, no state requires you to take a field sobriety test. Moreover, about one of every three completely sober people (0.00% BAC) fail them. And that’s under ideal conditions. They are volunteers who aren’t nervous about a possible arrest.

stopped for dwiHowever, if police pull you over, you’re not taking the test under ideal conditions. Moreover, you’re very nervous and taking it on the uneven side of the road with vehicles going by. It may be dark, with confusing lights. And confusion and uncertainty count  as points toward failure!

In addition, the test is highly subjective. And the officer suspects you’re guilty or wouldn’t have pulled you over in the first place. So there’s a heavy bias against you. Even when administered by the most conscientious of officers.

If you fail, the officer may arrest you even if you’re a completely sober alcohol abstainer. And that arrest record will follow you for the rest of your life. It can keep you out of some occupations. And many employers will not hire anyone with an arrest. Even if completely innocent, that arrest will plague you forever.

III. The Officer’s Perspective

Patrol officers get promotions and rewards on the number of arrests they make per month. (There are no official quotas.) Traffic tickets don’t count. It’s arrests that lead to salary increases and other benefits. Police departments don’t consider whether or not drivers are innocent. It’s the number of people under arrest.

Thus, DUI and DWI arrests are important for an officer’s career. But such arrests are even more valuable if drivers have illegal guns or drugs in their cars. Arrests are still more valuable if drivers resist arrest or if they commit battery. Any of these charges carry more points in the officers monthly arrest count.


Unfortunately, some officers use “inciters” to provoke an illegal reaction. They do this for more arrest points. For example, they may scream very close to your face. (Occasionally, it may simply be out of anger. ) Although that might violate some department’s procedures, it’s completely legal. It’s also common. See an example caught on video.

However, if you raise your hands to cover your face, there could be a charge of arresting arrest. If you gently push the officer away, that’s a change of “battery against a law enforcement officer.” (But an officer can jab a finger into your chest to incite you. That’s legal.)

Although illegal, an officer might touch a person inappropriately. Fondling a woman’s breast might her cause her to slap the officer. That’s a charge of battery. Inappropriately touching a man might cause him to turn his body quickly away. That’s a charge resisting arrest.

Whispering inflammatory comments to suspects is an easy inciter but virtually impossible to prove. Racial, ethnic, sexual, or similar comments are effective inciters. They can cause suspects to respond in ways that increase the charges against them. More arrest points toward promotion.

IV. Popular Resources (Stopped for DWI or DUI)

Anon. What You Need to Know About the Legal Matters of DUI.
(Downloadable article)

Bergman, P and Berman-Barrett, S. Criminal Law Handbook. Know Your Rights and Survive the System. Berkeley: Nolo, 2018.

Carson, D. and Denham, W. Arrest-Proof YourselfChicago: Chicago Rev Press, 2014.

stopped for DwiDecker, K. DUI Bible: Avoiding a Drunk Driving Conviction. Xlibris, 2008.

Drinking and Driving Org., The Complete DUI Avoidance Lesson Plan.
Auth, 2009.

Head, B. and Joye, R. 101 Ways to Avoid a Drunk Driving Conviction. Atlanta: Maximar, 1991.

Lauterjung, L. DUI Law for Drivers: How to Avoid DUI Arrests and How to Handle a DUI Stop. The Author, 2012.

stopped for DwiPierce, F. DUI: How to Avoid a Drunk Driving Arrest and Conviction. Boulder, CO: Paladin, 2007.

Stidham. L. DUI: How to Avoid Arrest.  Mofo, 2016.


Stopped for DWI? You’ll be nervous, everyone is. But now you know how to handle it.