Drinking & Driving: When the blue lights come-a-knockin’ don’t go-a-talkin’


Understandably, the shock of the loud siren and flashing blue lights is enough to scare the best of us.  However, DO NOT PANIC when getting pulled over by police officers.

First, and foremost, it is not a crime to drink and drive.  The crime lies within the effects that the drinking may have on the driver and the driving itself if under the effects of alcohol or drugs.  Here are some things to keep in mind when you see the flashing blue lights in the rear view mirror after you’ve had a couple of drinks.

1. Police officers are trained to look for cues of intoxication and/or impairment when they suspect a driver may be under the influence.  Some notable signs include: odor, blood-shot eyes, odd or erratic behavior and inappropriate language or slurred speech.  It is always best to be calm, collected and polite in such circumstances.  Being cordial to the officer will serve you well in the short term (while interacting with the officer), and possibly in the future (if you are arrested and required to go to trial).

2. “You have the right to remain silent!”  We have all heard this saying many times, but we rarely take advantage of it.  It is always best not to volunteer any information, and even when asked by the police, people have the constitutional right to be silent.  I am not suggesting you should remain completely silent, however, anyone would be within his/her legal rights to inform the officer(s) that he/she is declining to answer their question(s).  Doing so may arise the officer’s suspicion yet you are not making statements that may potentially be used against you if you are arrested.

3. You also have the right NOT to perform any “tests” the officer may ask of you.  While you MUST step outside of the car if asked to do so, your legal obligations end there.  This means that anyone has a right to refuse performing any field sobriety tests, and any breathalyzer tests.  Also, while getting out of the car, keep your balance and do not use the car as a crutch.  Refusal to perform tests may get you arrested on the spot, though evidence to be used against you may be scarce.

4. To blow or not to blow – that is the question.  (a)  If you blow and your BAC (blood alcohol content) is higher than the legal limit, you automatically lose your license for 30 days (plus there is now almost indisputable evidence that you broke the law).  If your BAC is lower than the legal limit, than you are safe* (safe only means you have not violated the OUI statute per-se, or by operation of law); (b) If you do NOT blow, then you automatically lose your license for at least 180 days (first offense).  Additionally, if you do not blow, then there is no hard evidence that you broke the law (there still, however, may be circumstantial evidence such as erratic driving, odor of alcohol, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, etc).

The choice on how to act when pulled over by law enforcement is a personal one.  However, when and if we have a few alcoholic beverages, our judgment tends to get impaired, and while we think we are doing the “right” thing, we may be shooting ourselves in the foot!  Remember, we have rights and rights are there to protect us.

Finally, no matter what situation you are in, ALWAYS ask the officer to speak with an attorney before you answer any questions or go through any proceedings.  “He who represents himself, has a fool for a client.”

***This blog is not intended to advocate for or against drinking & driving***

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