Stopped for DUI or DWI? It Pays to Know Lawyers’ Advice Ahead of Time

No one should ever drive while impaired. However, many people do, often unintentionally. But even if you are stopped for DUI and are guilty, you still have important rights to protect.

I.   In-car Sobriety Test
II.  Field Sobriety Test
III. Portabl Breath Test
IV.  Police Station Test
V.   Summary
VI. Popular Resources

When officers stop people for suspected DUI, they assume that the driver is probably guilty.

Therefore, if you’re stopped for DUI, they’re attempting to find evidence to support their assumption. Not only do they think you’re almost certainly guilty. But they’ve invested their time and effort in stopping you. They have pride and don’t want to lose face. Nor do they want to let you escape the consequences of your assumed guilt. This is basic human nature.

This website strongly opposes impaired driving. But it also supports the U.S. Constitution and the rights it grants both the innocent and the guilty.

So understand clearly that the perhaps friendly officer isn’t your friend at all. Almost anything you say or do can, and may very well, be used against you in a court of law. There’s no reason to help anyone harm you.

Officers might ask you where you’ve been. Where you’re coming from. If you’ve had anything to drink. You may not legally lie. Most lawyers urge clients to respectfully decline to answer such questions. Answering does not help you. But it can harm you.

Of course, you must show your driving license, registration, and insurance card. But remember that nothing you say can help you. But it will be used against you.

I. In-car Sobriety Test

If you’re stopped for DUI, the officer may want to test you while you’re still in the car. The person may ask you to count backward. To say the alphabet from perhaps J to Q.  Or to touch each finger to your thumb on the same hand, in sequence, while counting.

Most people who are stopped for DUI are nervous and possible upset. Therefore, it is often difficult for completely sober people to be able to perform such tasks perfectly. But failure to do so will be used against you!

You aren’t required to take such tests, no matter what the officer may say or promise. You have nothing to gain but much to lose. Therefore, most lawyers would urge you to respectfully refuse.

II. Field Sobriety Test

The officer will almost certainly ask you to take a field sobriety test. It was designed to make it easier to get convictions. The test typically has three parts.

1. One-leg Stand Test. The suspect (that’s you) is told to stand on one leg while counting from one thousand.

2. Walk a Straight Line Test. The suspect walks heel-to-toe a specific number of times and then reverses the procedure.

3 Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test. The suspect follows a light or object with their eyes.

Again, you aren’t required to take the test or any part of it. And that’s regardless of what the officer may say or threaten. You have nothing to gain but much to lose. Therefore, most lawyers would urge you to respectfully refuse.

Many Sober People Fail Test

A major problem with the test is that it’s hard for many completely sober people to pass it. Researchers report that about one-third of sober people fail the test. That’s under ideal conditions. With no blinking lights, cars zipping past, uneven surface, anxiety, and so on. Yet one-third fail to pass.

Consider the One-leg Stand. It’s not a very good indicator of intoxication. But it’s a very good test of age. How long a person can stand on one leg is very good indicator of their age. It’s also helpful in helping diagnose any of a number of physical or neurological problems.

stopped for DUIThe Walk a Straight Line test is also easy for completely sober people to fail. They’re usually very nervous and often fail to walk the correct number of steps. That results in a failure. Or they fail to walk in a straight enough line. That means failure. It’s usually an invisible or imaginary line. So whether or not the suspect fails or not is very subjective. And the person doing the deciding assumes you’re guilty!

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test is also highly subjective. The officer has to estimate the number of degrees that the eyes can follow the object. There is no instrument provided. So it’s really only an estimate by someone who thinks you’re guilty.

Test is Subjective

stopped for DUIThe whole field sobriety test is highly subjective and unreliable. Researchers have studied officers trained in giving the test. The officers viewed and graded the same person taking the same test. Yet they widely disagreed about the score. So you can pass with one officer but fail with another. It’s the luck of the draw.

The field sobriety test lacks validity – it’s invalid. That is, it doesn’t accurately measure intoxication. And that’s why lawyers say you shouldn’t take it. You simply politely but firmly decline, even if you’re totally sober.

III. Portable Alcohol Breath Test

stopped for DUIOfficers often carry fairly crude hand-held alcohol breath testers. They may  ask you to blow into one of these devices.

These tests are used to try to help argue that you’re impaired. This would also help justify your being stopped for DUI. For arresting you. For taking you to the police station.  And for demanding that you submit to another alcohol breath test.

However, you are not required to submit to this test. Lawyers would tell you not to take it. 

IV. Police Station Breath Test

Now for the bad news. You are legally required to take the alcohol breath estimator machine at the police station. You may refuse to do so. However,  there will be a penalty for not giving up your Constitutional right against self-incrimination. Ordinarily, it’s a license suspention for a specific amount of time.

stopped for DUIUnfortunately, the inaccuracy of breathalyzers is a threat to law-abiding drivers. This is why it’s important to have a lawyer who specializes in DUI cases and understands their weaknesses.

There are good ways to virtually eliminate an unfair conviction for DUI or DWI. One is to choose not to drink. Another is to pace the rate of drinking and follow other tips for maintaining a low BAC. A third is to have a designated driver. If you either don’t drink or use a designated driver, you never have to worry about the inaccuracy of breathalyzers.

Learn more in section II (Solutions to Breathalyzer Inaccuracy) of Inaccuracy of Breathalyzers.

V.  Summary

You’re stopped for DUI. Actually for suspicion of DUI. If you don’t know your rights during a police stop, there is good reason to be afraid. Police have enormous power. They are allowed to deceive you. And they’re trained how to get your consent to test you. This is to help them get you convicted.

stopped for DUIIf you don’t know your rights, you can’t protect them. And you suffer the the consequences.

It’s a good idea to visit the websites of some DUI defense lawyers in your state. This can help you learn more specifics that might pertain to you. You might also email the lawyers for clarification.

Audio Recording

Many lawyers suggest that you make an audio recording of your interaction with the officer. This can help prove if police violated any of your rights. Most suggest that the officer not be aware of the recording.

If you’re stopped for DUI and need an attorney, you should select one who specializes in DUI cases. You wouldn’t let your family phycian conduct brain surgery on you or a loved one. It’s best in both medicine and law to use a specialist.

Alcohol Breath Test Estimators

stopped for DUIAlcohol breath tests are really only alcohol breath estimators. The only true test of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) uses blood itself. Learn more about some of the the many shortcomings of breathalyzers. Your lawyer may be able to show that the breathalyzer was inaccurate.

If you get stopped for DUI, you’ll be glad to know your rights.

Of course, the best way to avoid an unjust conviction is to keep your BAC at either zero or well below the legal limit.

Remember. This website strongly opposes impaired driving. But it also strongly supports the U.S. Constitution and the rights it grants both the innocent and the guilty.

VI. Popular Resources

Anon. DUI: Choices and Consequences. Williston, VT: AIMS, 2009. (Video)

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

Brezina, C. I’ve Gotten a DWI/DUI, Now What?
NY: Rosen, 2016. (Juv readership)

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

Drinking and Driving Org., The Complete DUI Avoidance Lesson Plan.
DrinkingAndDriving.Org., 2009. Among other things, this group promotes designated driving.

Gillespie, L. Police Encounters: Know Your Rights. The Author, 2014.

stopped for DUIGoodman, K. and Simon, K. Safe Road Home. Stop Your Teen from Drinking & Driving. NY: Sterling, 2005.

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

Head, W. The DUI Book: a Citizen’s Guide to Understanding DUI-DWI Litigation in America. Atlanta: Headlines, 2006.

Hudson, T. The Drinker’s Guide to Driving: the Secrets of DUI, From One of America’s Top DUI Lawyers. Cork: BookBaby, 2013.

stopped for DUIKeech, C. and Fairchild, C. Dude, What are My Rights? The Self-Help Legal Survival Guide Ages 18-25. Kansas City, MO: Keechild, 2004.

Kwasnoski, J., et al. Officer’s DUI Handbook. Charlottesville: LexisNexis, 2013.

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

Nesci, J. How to Beat a DUI. Tucson: Lawyers & Judges, 2008.

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

Sagstetter, R. Rights During a Police Stop for DUI in the U.S.: What Officers Can and Cannot Do. Denver: Outskirts, 2012.

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

Wilcox, E. The No B.S. Guide to Surviving Your Florida D.U.I. The Author, 2012.

Stopped for DUI? You’ll be nervous, but now you know about your rights.