Simple advice as to what to do when stopped or arrested for DUI

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Oct 22


Simple advice as to what to do when stopped or arrested for DUI

by Anonymous

I am often asked, “What do I do if I am pulled over and I have been drinking?”  This is not always an easy question to answer, but through my experience as an attorney defending DUIs in Seattle and the surrounding areas including, Bellevue, Kirkland, Renton, Redmond, Mill Creek, Woodinville and Lynwood, to name a few, I can provide some basic information.  I realize that some folks may be reading this after they have been arrested and processed for DUI and, if that is the case, please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.  We are happy to help and can always be reached at (206) 209-0608 or at In short, however, there are three basic things you will want to remember when being stopped and potentially arrested for DUI”

  • Be polite to the officer
  • Know you have the right to refuse to perform Field Sobriety Tests ( FTSs)
  • Know you have the right to answer any of the officers questions
  • Know you have the right to speak to an attorney
  • It is best to provide two samples of your breath at the station.

If you follow this advice, you will avoid serious consequences involving the automatic suspension of your driving privileges, limit the amount of evidence a prosecutor may have in support of a DUI Case against you, and curtail any potential credibility problems

First, be polite.  When an officer stops you, he is looking for more than just the infraction you may have committed.  When he approaches your car, his senses are heightened and he is on high alert.  The more courtesy and respect you can demonstrate, the better the chance you will express the same towards you.  If you are stopped and charged with a DUI, the prosecutor will read the report and look to see how you interacted with the officer.  When I was a prosecutor we were told to evaluate the report for the “jerk test” and determine if the offending driver was a jerk or was he polite.  Not that it made much of a difference in the end, it was still something prosecutors are trained to look for. 

Next, always be aware that the officer is immediately relying on his senses when interacting with you.  First, he will be studying your motions and looking for how you respond to his questions.  Are you moving slowly, are you lethargic, do you fumble for your driver’s license when l looking through your wallet of glove compartment.  Next he will be listening to see if you are slurring your words.  Most importantly, he will be using his sense of smell.  He wants to see if there is an odor of alcohol coming from the car.  If he smells alcohol, he may have probably cause to ask you to step from your car.  If does that, he is off and running in his investigation for DUI. 

An officer must have a reason to stop your vehicle, be it a lane infraction, crossing the center line, crossing the fog line, speeding, not having you headlights on, and/or any other infraction.   Once he stops you he must have an independent reason to ask you to step from the car.  In most cases it is slurred speech and the odor of alcohol.  The affects are very common even with someone who has had very little to drink.  If this is the case, again be polite, but understand what he may ask you to do is voluntary. 

Most likely, he is going to ask you to perform the Standard Field Sobriety Tests or FSTs for short.  These will include the one leg stand, horizontal gaze nystagmus, and walk and turn tests.  These test are voluntary and you do not have to take them.  They are difficult for a sober person to pass let alone someone who may have had a drink or two.  If you are stone sober, then take them, if you have been drinking and think you may be effected by alcohol, you are free to pass on performing them. 

The officer will also ask you to supply a breath test at the time of the stop.  This is referred to the Portable breath Test or PBT for short. The results of this roadside test is not admissible in court and is only a further tool for the officer to use to determine if you are over the legal limit of .08.  Again, this is a voluntary test and you are free to pass and giving the officer any more information about your condition.

If the officer believes, based on his observations of your driving, your physical movements, pattern of speech and any detected odor of alcohol, that he has enough to arrest you for DUI, he will most likely do so.  He will put you in custody and begin a more thorough investigation into the suspected crime of DUI. 

If you are placed under arrest, again, be polite.  Try not to get overly upset and remain calm.  Often I see clients become belligerent, rude and use profanity to such a degree it is clearly outside the realm of normal societal behavior.  In short, it can be seen by the prosecutor as a lack of judgment which is another indicator of intoxication.  Even more important, the officer can still report on what he is seeing and hearing and put it into his report.  Often he can testify about your behavior when in front of a jury.  That means the six people that are assigned to sit in judgment will see the same thing the officer did. 

The most important thing you can do at this point is to invoke your Miranda rights and ask to speak to an attorney.  An attorney from our office is always available to speak to you by calling us at (206) 209-0608 or on our webpage located at An attorney experienced n defending DUIs in Seattle will be available to answer your questions immediately.  If you take this simple step, you will be protected from providing any more information about your condition or providing any further incriminating evidence, including personal statements or admissions.

Once you get to the station, the officer has to follow a strict set of rules in gathering a sample of your breath, or BAC.  He has to maintain an observation period, make sure you do not eat or put anything in your mouth, amongst other things.  When the BAC test is ready to be administered, the officer will ask you if you wish to provide a sample of your breath.  Your answer should be yes and you should provide a sample of your breath.  It is very important to know that the BAC test is not voluntary and your refusal to submit a sample of your breath can be used against you in court and can have immediate consequences regarding your right to drive a vehicle as administered by the Washington State Department of Licensing. 

Please understand that this roadside test is very different from any test that may be administered once you are placed under arrest.  The PBT is a preliminary test performed on the side of the road and is not admissible in court.  It is used by the officer to determine IF he has probably cause to arrest you.  The breath test at the station, BAC for short, is test a test after the officer has determined probable cause exists to arrest you for DUI. 

Before you are asked to submit a sample of your breath, you will be allowed to speak to an attorney about what to do.  It is always best to invoke that right as soon as possible and ask to speak to an attorney that is experienced with defending DUIs in Seattle and the surrounding areas.  Please be aware the office will also try to ask you questions about what you were doing on the evening of the stop.  They may ask you what you were drinking and how much.  They may ask you where you were drinking and with whom.  Again, invoke your right under Miranda to remain silent and politely refuse to answer the officer’s questions.

To briefly reiterate what I have described above, when you are stopped by an officer and you have been drinking, it is best to follow some simple instructions.  First be polite.  Second, realize that if the officer asks you to perform FSTs or to provide a sample of your breath through a PBT, you can respectfully decline to do so.   If you are placed under arrest for DUI regardless, you have the right to remain silent and to refuse to answer any of the officer’s questions.  You also have the right to speak to an attorney so ask to do so.  Yu will be asked to provide a sample of your breath at the station and it is best to provide one for the simple reason to avoid the automatic suspension of your driving privileges.

Of course if you have any questions about this process or any other matter, please feel free to contact us at or by calling (206) 209-0608.

October, 2014
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