Asserting your rights when you have been pulled over by a police officer for DUI is difficult for most people to do. Besides the worry that you may be wrong about your legal rights, there is also the fear that comes along with being pulled over. The result is that most times, drivers allow police officers to trample their rights without having any recourse.
Recently, a group in Florida has created “DUI flyers” that can be used if a person is stopped at a checkpoint. The flyer sends a very clear message to the police officer (I’m not talking, I don’t want my car searched, I DO want my attorney). An example of the flyer can be seen below:
The purpose of the flyer is to communicate to the police officer that the driver is fully informed of his or her rights and to remind the driver about what should be done during a DUI checkpoint. The flyer reminds the driver to not speak to the police officers and that they are not required to cooperate with the police. The flyer appears to give the driver sounds advice about what they can do to protect their rights.
Should you have a flyer? While it might useful immediately after you are pulled over, it will probably cause you just as much grief and ridicule from the officers who stop you. I believe there are five important things that you can and should do once you are stopped:
1. Do…use a designated driver. This protects you from any legal battles and ensures that you arrive home safely. I tell everyone that I have a sure fire defense against DUI. It is no fail, never lose! Don’t drink and drive.
2. Do…remain calm with the police officer. Be sure to have your license and identification ready. While you are not required to answer any questions, you are required to follow any direct instructions (such as to get out of the car).
3. Do…remember that everything you say and do will be written up in a police report at a later time. It is also very likely that your encounter with the police will be recorded. While the situation may be very stressful, it is important to remember that colorful language will not make anything better, and in most cases it will tend to make the situation even worse. While you are talking to the officer do not lean on the car or move around. Police officers always put in their reports that the suspect had to lean on his car due to intoxication. If you choose to take the Roadside Field Sobriety Tests (and you are not required to take them) listen carefully to the instructions and make sure you understand them. If you do the tests perfectly but don’t follow the instructions, the officer will write that you were impaired because you could not follow the instructions. Frankly I consider eye test (HGN) the most susceptible of abuse and B.S.
4. Do…know the difference between the portable breath test (PBT) and the Intoxilyzer 8000. The PBT is used simply to determine whether you have any alcohol on your breath. A positive result on this test will likely result in the officer asking you to submit to a field sobriety test. The results of a PBT are terribly inaccurate–courts do not allow the results in a trial! The Intoxylizer 8000, on the other hand, is the official breath test machine for the State of Mississippi. Courts rely heavily on the results of this test to determine the suspect’s breath alcohol content. Refusing this test when offered by an officer can result in a 90-day suspension of sentence.
5. Do…write down every single detail of the encounter that you can remember. This includes small details such as what you ate that day, what you drank, and where you were driving when you were stopped.
In addition to these five important things to do when you are stopped, there are also some important things not to do.
1. DO NOT…take the portable breath test! This test is designed to just determine whether you have alcohol on your breath and will only help to incriminate you. The police officer can still arrest you, even if you “pass” the test.
2. DO NOT…consent to the field sobriety test! Studies have shown that police officers have failed who are actually completely sober. The test is completely subjective and the officer is looking for specific things (that he will not tell you about). No matter how well you think you aced it, when it comes time for trial, the officer will still testify that you did not perform up to standard. The test will do very little good for you and it is highly unlikely that you will be able to prove your sobriety through the test.
3. DO NOT…try to talk yourself out of the situation! Everything that you say (and do) will be recorded by the officer’s dashboard camera. If you argue with the police officer, the officer will characterize your behavior as “combative” or “uncooperative” when testifying at trial.
4. DO NOT act belligerent, loud, rude, or like a fool. This type of behavior goes into the officer’s report. Do not exhibit this behavior at the police station because there is a camera watching you at all times.
Some lawyers will recommend the flyer approach when you are pulled over for a DUI. Here at Coxwell & Associates, we believe that the best approach is to be personally educated so you can make informed choices. The flyer might be a good short-term solution, but it will not help you if you need to defend yourself against a DUI charge.
If you are ever pulled over for a DUI, please don’t hesitate to contact the skilled attorneys at Coxwell & Associates today so that we can discuss your options. Merrida Coxwell has over 32 years of experience helping Mississippians solve their legal problems. Merrida Coxwell & Chuck Mullins focus their time, energy and intelligence helping people who have been charged with a crime or who have sustained a serious injury. Look at the Representative Cases on this website for short stories of a few of the cases they have handled.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.