Being Pulled Over For a DUI in DC
When a person is pulled over in the District of Columbia, an officer will come to the window and ask for the person’s driver’s license, registration, and insurance.
As a person tries to produce these items, the officer will engage them in conversation in an attempt to do what is called divided attention testing.
This is where the officer attempts to get a person to do two things at once because if you are under the influence of alcohol, it is theoretically difficult to do the tasks while the person’s attention is divided from talking to the officer.
Once a person has produced their license, registration, and insurance, an officer most likely will ask them if they have been drinking. Whether the person answers yes or no, they are most likely going to be asked to step out of the car to perform standardized field sobriety tests.
If a person chooses not to participate, there is a greater chance that they will be arrested.
Behaviors Officers Look For
DC police officers are trained using the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) guidelines.
They are trained to look for certain clues of impaired driving such as swaying, crossing over road lines, running stop signs, running red lights, and driving too slow.
How to React When Getting Pulled Over
When a person sees flashing lights in their rearview mirror, they should pull over. Although they should try to do this immediately, they do not want to attempt to pull over so quickly that they create a dangerous situation.
After pulling over smoothly, a person should brake and turn their car off. At that point, understanding that a police officer is going to be approaching the vehicle, the driver should retrieve their license, insurance card, and registration, so that it is ready to be presented to the officer.
Additionally, it is important to drive slowly, so as not to give any indication that the person is trying to evade the officer or flee. The officer is aware of whether a shoulder exists.
The officer may direct the driver to an area where they can pull over by using a loudspeaker or flashing their lights indicating that the person should pull over, even if it is on a highway. The police officer will likely be behind the driver and will stop behind the driver, so the driver will not get hit from behind.
Unless the officer says to get out of the car, a person should remain in their vehicle. If a person really believes that it is dangerous, then they can depart very slowly, and put their hazard lights on. If a person wants to try to turn off the road to go to a safe place, they should not go too far.
The approach a person should take to a stop should not change at night. It is certainly important at night to pull over to safe place where you are not going to get hit, so a person to needs to indicate in some form or fashion, whether by hazard lights or by flashing your lights, that they are slowing down.
A person’s hazards are their best bet. A person’s speed can also demonstrate to an officer that the person is not attempting to flee and that that they are attempting to pull over to the side of the road.
After pulling over, a person should turn off their car and place both hands on the steering wheel where the officer can see them.
Consenting to a Vehicle Search
A person is never required to consent to any request by a law enforcement officer except to provide identification. A person does not have to consent to a search of their vehicle and should never consent to a search of their vehicle or of their person.
There is no reason that anyone should ever consent to anything. The answer to that request from a police officer should always be a polite no.
Implied consent is the concept that when an individual gets a driver’s license, part of the implied contract they enter into with the state is that the person will consent to a breath, blood, or urine test if requested by a law enforcement officer who arrested them on a charge driving under the influence.
An individual does not have to consent to those tests. However, if that person refuses to give consent to the test, the penalty is typically a year of suspension of a driver’s license.
Mistakes to Avoid During a DUI Stop
The biggest mistakes to avoid are providing interviews to law enforcement officers, allowing a law enforcement officer to search the car, and thinking they can talk their way out of a DUI arrest.
The only time the Miranda rights are required is when an officer interrogates someone who is in custody. Custody is a legal term that means the person is restrained or otherwise limited in their freedom of movement such as a reasonable person would feel like they are not free to leave.
The person is being asked questions designed to illicit an incriminating response. Miranda rights are only required when an individual is under custodial interrogation. They are not required otherwise.
If an individual is in their car, they are not necessarily in custody. If a person is arrested and handcuffed, and if that individual is in the back of a police car, they are in custody.
Interacting with an Officer
After the officer approaches a person’s vehicle, they should expect that the officer will ask for their license, insurance, and registration. In addition, the officer will observe whether the person has any trouble producing those items.
They are going to observe the person’s speech to see if it is slurred, and they will look at the person and probably flash a light in their face while they are in the car.
This will allow the officer to check the person’s eyes and ask how much, if anything, the person had to drink. You are not under any obligation to answer any questions except regarding basic identifying information, such as name and address.
If an officer asks the person to step out of the car, they are required to step out of the car. At that point, if the officer asks for the person to perform standardized field sobriety tests, that is their choice. They should understand that if they choose not to perform them, then they will almost certainly be arrested.