A traffic stop is an uncommon event for most drivers. It is something we often don’t think about until we’re in the middle of the stop. That’s why we wrote this post about tips for traffic stops. We want drivers thinking about how they will handle a traffic stop before it happens.
If an officer suspects a DUI though, that creates additional issues for the traffic stop. The best way to avoid DUI stop is to never drive after drinking, regardless of whether or not you are impaired. If you are ever facing a traffic stop where the officer suspects a DUI though, keep the following tips in mind.
DUI Traffic Stop Do’s
1. DO be respectful.
Being an a-hole towards the officer is not going to improve things. An officer is in a position of power. The officer has the ability to make your life miserable, at least for a little bit. So be respectful.
2. DO be prepared to provide your driver license, registration and proof of insurance.
You are required to produce these items to the police officer. If you don’t have them, it’s not the end of the world though. You must at least identify yourself to the officer though.
3. DO consent to a breath test or blood draw.
We’re not talking about the hand-held preliminary breath test here. That you can refuse. We’re talking about the Intoxilyzer 8000. The officer will have to transport you to the location of the Intoxilyzer. The intoxilyzer is an evidentiary breath test, meaning the results are admissible as evidence in court. In Arizona, if a driver refuses an evidentiary breath test or a blood draw, ADOT will suspend the driver’s license for 12 months, regardless of the test results.
Besides, if a driver refuses, the police will quickly get a warrant for a blood draw and draw the driver’s blood anyway.
4. DO invoke your right to remain silent.
There are certain questions you must answer, like your identity, or whether you have a firearm. Otherwise, answering questions will generally not be helpful. Typically, officers have decided how they are going to proceed, and efforts to convince them otherwise will be unsuccessful. The more you talk, the greater your chances of saying something incriminating.
DUI Traffic Stop Don’ts
1. DON’T consent to field sobriety tests.
Officers may ask you to perform a variety of field sobriety tests. These include asking you follow a pen light with your eyes (horizontal nystagmus), the walk and turn, and the one-leg stand. These tests can be very unreliable. In fact, as many as 1/3 of all people fail the field sobriety tests even when they have not been drinking. Sometimes police officers even fail to correctly perform themselves if asked to demonstrate them.
2. DON’T consent to a preliminary breath test.
In Arizona, you do not have to consent to a preliminary breath test. A preliminary breath test is a small handheld unit that many officers will try to use to establish probable cause for an arrest. These devices are not subject to any regular quality assurance or calibration, and the results are inadmissible at a trial. Politely decline to take the test.
3. DON’T answer questions.
As noted above, you must answer a couple questions, like your identity and whether you have a firearm. Beyond that, say as little as possible. You could say something along the lines of “I wish to remain silent” or “I don’t want to answer any questions”. Anything that sounds like an admission could tank your criminal case down the road.
4. DON’T drive impaired.
Even if you are not impaired, if you are driving a car after having drinks, you run the risk of an unpleasant police interaction. Police are looking for the thinnest of reasons to pull over drivers to investigate for DUIs. Did you make a wide turn? Did you weave within your lane? Did you change lanes without signaling? Any of these minor technical violations could be a pretext for an officer to initiate a traffic stop and claim you are impaired.
Police are particularly aggressive in hunting for DUIs in certain parts of town, like Mill Ave in Tempe, or Old Town Scottsdale, and on weekends and holidays.
And you can always ask for an attorney.
You always have the right to call an attorney, and the police are required to give you an opportunity to do so. However, depending on the time of day, it may be difficult to reach an attorney. The police to not have to wait until you reach an attorney to proceed with their investigation, they just have to give you an opportunity to call. So do have a plan on how you will proceed ahead of time.