Stopped for DWI or DUI? (What Defense Lawyers Say to Do)

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

You want to avoid being stopped for DWI.


I.    Your BAC

II.   When Stopped for DWI

III.  In-car Sobriety Test

IV.   Field Sobriety Test

V.    Portable Breath Test

VI.   Police Station Breath Test

VII.  Recording Police

VIII. Conclusion

IX.    Popular Resources

I. Your BAC

So the first order of business is to keep your BAC at safely low limits. This reduces the risk of DUI or DWI arrest. It also reduces the risk of crashes.

The risk that police will stop you increases after midnight, on weekends, and on holidays.

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 being stopped for DWI increases as the actual BAC is nearer and nearer the illegal limit. This is because breath testers often generate false readings. If you’re close to the limit, an false reading could push you over the limit.

Breath testers don’t actually measure BAC. That requires analysis of a sample of the driver’s blood. Instead, the devices only indirectly estimate it. And many, many things can cause an erroneous estimate. Learn more at Accuracy of Breath Testers.

Standard Drinks

It’s important to keep your BAC well below the illegal level. Don’t let an inaccurate breath tester estimate unfairly nail you. 

stopped for dwi
Standard Drinks

Standard drinks all have 0.6 ounce of pure alcohol. So standard drinks of beer, wine or distilled spirits (liquor) are equal. That is, each has the same amount of actual alcohol. A drink is a drink!

Pace your standard drinks to no more of one per hour. Eat plenty of food while drinking. And alternate alcoholic with non-alcoholic drinks.

And consider buying a personal alcohol breath tester. But remember that it will be an estimate of your real BAC. So it’s wise to keep your BAC below its estimate. Learn more practical ways to keep a low BAC.

II. When Stopped for DWI or DUI

When 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.

In any case, 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.

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 box, 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.


Dale 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.

Officer who pull you over think you are probably impaired. So they’re conducting a criminal investigation. Police can legally lie to you during such an 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. 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.

These may interest you.

III. In-car Sobriety Test

If you’re stopped for DWI, 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 DWI are nervous and possible upset. 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 and politely refuse. 

IV. Field Sobriety Test

The officer will almost certainly ask you to take a field sobriety test. Police developed such tests 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 steps and then reverses the procedure. However, the suspect must do the turn in a very specific way.

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. In fact, no state requires you to take a field sobriety test. And that’s regardless of what the officer may say or threaten. Investigating a possible DUI is a criminal investigation. Remember, courts permit officers to lie to you.

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 30% of sober volunteers fail the test. That’s under ideal conditions. Within a well-lighted room. They’re not nervous. And they don’t fear being arrested. They have no blinking lights, cars rushing past, uneven surface, anxiety, and so on. Yet almost one-third fail to pass. And they have a BAC of 0.000%.

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.


The Walk a Straight Line test is also easy for completely sober people to fail. It’s much, much harder for suspects to pass. 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


The whole field sobriety test is highly subjective and unreliable. For example, 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.

Bias Against Your Innocence

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 the most conscientious officer will have a strong bias.

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

V. Portable Alcohol Breath Test