First and foremost, you should never drink and drive. The best and easiest way to avoid getting a DUI is not to get behind the wheel after drinking. DUIs are serious offenses and can have a major impact on your life for many years if you’re convicted. It’s important to stay calm, cooperate with law enforcement, and enlist the help of an attorney skilled in handling DUI cases.
J.J. Evans, a criminal defense attorney with Thurmond Kirchner & Timbes, P.A., is a former police officer and S.C. Law Enforcement Division agent. He shares these six helpful tips to follow if faced with a DUI:
- Find a safe place to pull over. If the officer has activated his blue lights, he is indicating that you should pull over. Use your turn signal and slowly and carefully pull over to the side of the road. When looking for a spot to pull over to, think “safety first” for both you and the officer. Look for an area with a wide shoulder so passing traffic isn’t a hazard. If it’s nighttime, look for place that is lit if possible. Stay in the car, keep your hands on the wheel, and calmly wait for the police officer to approach your motor vehicle. You want to think clearly and remain calm when a traffic stop is initiated.
- Provide your license and vehicle information. Have your papers in order and be ready to produce your driver's license, registration, and insurance card. Stay calm and remember the police are watching to see how you perform the maneuvers involved in gathering these credentials. You should always have your proof of insurance, vehicle registration, and driver's license where you can obtain them quickly and easily.
- Be polite to the officer. The police officer who pulled you over will write your police report. This report will be very important for your upcoming trial if you are charged with DUI. It is the document by which the officer will likely recall the details his or her interaction with you. If you are cooperative and nice, the police report may reflect that.
- Invoke your right to remain silent. When you are pulled over, let the officer do most of the talking. Don't interrupt, don't be argumentative, and don't say anything that the officer can record and use against you. You have the right to invoke the Fifth Amendment, which means you have the right to refrain from answering any and all questions the police officer asks you. If you wish to remain silent you should say that your attorney advised you not to answer any questions without him or her present.
- Don’t volunteer. If you have consumed any intoxicating substance (alcohol or drugs), you should decline to participate in any field sobriety exercises. Don't do eye tests, alphabet tests, counting tests, agility tests, walking tests, balance tests, or roadside breath tests. You can fail these tests even if you are not under the influence of alcohol because of the time of day, poor balance, a medical condition or poor vision. Refusing a field sobriety test will reduce the amount of evidence that may be used against you in front of a judge or jury and will avoid the risk of a flawed or defective test result. Unlike the chemical test refusal, there are no legal penalties for refusing to take a field sobriety test. In South Carolina, if you refuse a breath test, you will automatically have your driver’s license suspended for at least 6 months.
- Get a DUI attorney. Ask to be allowed to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The officer does not have to stop the arrest or booking process to allow you to call an attorney, but you should put it on the record that you want a lawyer. After you make this statement, do not make any other statements about your case.
Remember, the guaranteed way to avoid a DUI conviction is to never drink and drive. Call a cab or take an Uber. It is much safer and cheaper than a DUI conviction.
The legal information in this article is not intended to be a substitute for seeking personalized legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. This article is for informational and advertising purposes only. The information herein is not legal advice in any fashion and should not be used as such.