Law Offices of Meghan Blanco
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WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU ARE PULLED OVER FOR A DUI?
Every year in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, tens of thousands of people are arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Between December 13th and January 1st of 2014, an astounding 2,268 people were arrested for DUIs in Los Angeles County alone. An intensified reliance on DUI checkpoints and DUI mobilization units have had a significant impact on the number of people detained, field sobriety tests administered, and arrests made.
A DUI arrest – even without a conviction – carries severe and immediate consequences. These include being held in a county jail for up to 72 hours, suspension of a person’s driver’s license for a minimum of four months, possible loss of employment, and hundreds of dollars in impound fees.
All of these consequences stem from the immediate administrative penalties that the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can take regardless of whether the person is ever actually convicted of a DUI. This is because any sanctions imposed by the DMV are independent of any court-ordered jail sentence, fine, or other criminal penalty imposed when a person is convicted of a DUI.
If you are pulled-over for suspicion of driving under the influence, it is important that you understand your rights, as well as your responsibilities.
You Have The Right To Remain Silent
When an officer pulls you over, you are considered “detained.” That means you are not free to leave until the officer tells you so. You are not, however, in “custody” for purposes of your Miranda rights. An officer is free to question you without ever advising you of your Miranda rights. Keep in mind that even though you have not been advised of your rights, you are under no obligation to answer the officer’s questions. You are required to provide the officer your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. However, you may exercise your Fifth Amendment Rights against self-incrimination by politely declining to answer the officer’s questions.
You Have The Right To Say No To A Field Sobriety Test
The officer may ask you to take a field sobriety test. These consist of a battery of three standardized tests that measures motor skills, attention, and information retention. They are highly subjective, and in the opinion of many, designed for failure. The most important thing to remember about these tests is that they are completely voluntary. As you might have suspected, the officer will not advise you of that fact, and may even try to convince you that taking the tests is in your best interest. It is not. You may decline by politely telling the officer that you believe the tests are too subjective and do not wish to take them. You do not have to take the test even if the officer continues to push you to take it.
You Have The Right To Say No To A Preliminary Alcohol Screening Test
The officer will then likely invite you to take a breath test, also known as a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test. If you are over 21 and not on probation for a DUI, this test is also completely voluntary. You may politely tell the officer that you do not wish to take the breath test.
If you have declined to answer the officer’s questions or submit to a field sobriety or PAS test, then the officer must independently determine whether there is probable cause to arrest you for driving under the influence. An officer needs probable cause in order to make a valid arrest. If the officer cannot establish probable cause to believe you were driving under the influence, then he or she cannot arrest you. Unless and until you are arrested (if you are over 21 and not on probation for a DUI), you are not required to submit to a breath test.
If You Are Arrested. . .
Under California’s “implied consent” law, when you are lawfully arrested by an officer who has probable cause to believe you have been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, then you consent to taking a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining your blood alcohol content. Refusal to take a post-arrest chemical test usually results in a minimum one-year driver’s license suspension and enhanced penalties if you are ultimately convicted of DUI. Again, you are only required to submit to blood, breath, or urine test after you have been arrested.
DUI cases are complicated and highly technical. If you are arrested for driving under the influence, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who will scrutinize every piece of evidence, attack the prosecutions case against you, and mitigate the repercussions to the greatest extent possible. If you or a loved one have been arrested for driving under the influence, contact an attorney for a free consultation today.