Did you recently get a DUI? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, around 1.5 million people are arrested each year for driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
There’s no doubt that getting a DUI can be very scary. But, if you know what to expect, the process can seem a lot less daunting.
In most cases, a police officer pulls a motorist over because they’re showing signs of impairment.
Generally, it’s legal for a police officer to pull someone over in this case as long as they have reasonable cause. For example, if someone is swerving on the road or committing a traffic violation, then the police officer has reasonable cause to pull them over.
If the police officer didn’t have a reasonable cause for pulling you over, then you can bring a motion to suppress later in your case. This can result in your entire case being thrown out, so it’s very important to pay attention to what’s going on when you’re being pulled over.
Observations And Questioning
When the officer pulls you over, the first thing they’ll do is ask for your license and registration.
During this time, the officer will also make note of any signs of impairment. For example, maybe you’re fumbling for your documents or you’re emitting the odor of alcohol or marijuana. Any observations they make they’ll note in their police report. You’ll typically see this report for the first time at your arraignment.
In addition to observing your behavior, the police officer will also ask you if you’ve had anything to drink. If you confirm that you’ve had a little bit to drink, the cop may choose to investigate further.
For example, if they believe that they have probable cause for there being incriminating evidence in your car, then they may be able to search it without a warrant.
If the police officer’s suspicion is being confirmed, then they may also ask you to perform a set of roadside tests. Here are some of the tests they may choose to perform:
Field Sobriety Test
There are a lot of field sobriety tests that police officers use, but here are the most common ones:
- One-leg stand
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (aka, when a police officer asks you to follow their finger with your gaze)
- Walk and turn
In addition to field sobriety tests, many officers will also perform tests using a PAS device (also known as a portable breath test).
These tests are sometimes less reliable than breath or blood tests performed at the police station or hospital, but police like to use them because they give them a quick idea of a person’s BAC.
The purpose of this type of test is not to gather evidence for court, but to decide whether or not there’s probable cause for a DUI.
Mandatory Chemical Tests
All 50 states abide by an implied consent law. This law dictates that motorists who are arrested for a DUI must submit to chemical testing.
The purpose of these tests (typically breath or blood) is to measure the exact amount of alcohol in a person’s system. If you refuse to take these tests, you may face the following punishments:
- Suspended license
- Obligated to install an IID (ignition interlock device)
Also, if you refuse to take the test, the jury can be privy to this information if your case ends up going to trial. In fact, you can even be convicted of a separate crime for refusing to take these tests.
Arrest, Detention, And Release
If the police officer determines that there’s probable cause to arrest you for a DUI, then they’ll cuff you and take you to the station.
When they arrest you, they’ll take your driver’s license and give you a temporary driving permit. Typically, you can use this permit until the court makes a decision about whether or not they’re going to suspend your license.
Once you get to the police station, the officer will book you and cite you for your offense. You’ll then either stay in jail until someone bails you out or until you’re released of your own recognizance. If the officer arrests you on a Friday and no one bails you out, then you may end up having to spend the entire weekend in jail.
The good news is that any time you spend in jail at this point in the process can be subtracted from your future sentence.
Getting Legal Help
After you’ve been released, the very first thing you’ll want to do is seek legal help.
Luckily, there are many lawyers out there who specialize in DUI cases and who can help you with your case. Because the DUI laws are so different in each state, it’s very important to hire a lawyer to help you navigate the legal system.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when hiring a DUI lawyer:
- Always meet attorneys in person for a consultation before hiring
- Make sure the attorney you hire has experience with DUI cases of your nature
- Ask the attorney about their experience as well as their win-loss record
- Ask for recommendations for attorneys from friends and family members, and read reviews of the attorney online
- Make sure you have a clear understanding of their legal fees
Getting A DUI: Wrap Up
As you can see, getting a DUI can be a strenuous process. But, with this guide, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect.
If you need to hire a lawyer for your DUI case, be sure to check out this guide to learn how to find the right legal representation in the Charlotte area.