Tips for DUI Stops in DC

Below is excerpted from an interview with DC DUI lawyer Peter Odom. To learn more about DUI stops or to discuss your charge, call today and schedule a free consultation.

General Etiquette

When you are pulled over and you believe that the officer might suspect that you are under the influence, it’s important to be polite. You never want to be overly confrontational with the police. You never want to yell or argue with them. Be polite. Be respectful. Never provide more information than what is being requested. The more that you say, the more the police officers are going to try to use that information against you and try to convict you.

Know Your Rights

The most important thing to remember is that the officer does not care about helping you; the officer wants to make sure that you get arrested and wants to make sure that when you get arrested, you get convicted. Make sure you understand what your rights are. There is no legal requirement that you have to perform field sobriety tests. There is no legal requirement that you have to provide the police officer with information about what you’ve been doing that entire night. You don’t have to provide the police officer with consent to search your car. You can choose to not answer any questions. You can choose to not perform any field sobriety tests. The officer can still arrest you because the standard for an arrest is pretty low. All the officer needs is probable cause. That means that you can get arrested just for having the smell of alcohol on your breath, bloodshot eyes, and committing a traffic infraction.

Submitting Or Declining Breath Tests

If you end up getting arrested then the question often arises of whether you should provide a breath sample. It’s important to remember the consequences and benefits of providing a breath sample or refusing to provide a breath sample. When you provide a breath sample, the most obvious consequence is that no matter what the result of that breath score is, you’ve already been arrested. Even if you gave a breath sample of .00, you’re still getting arrested, but when the prosecutor files charges against you and has to prosecute your case, they’ll have a very difficult time doing it. When you give a breath sample, if it turns out there is alcohol in your system, then that could be used as evidence against you, but if it’s at a relatively low level, for example .10 or lower, then your lawyer might be able to work out an agreement with the prosecutor that results in your charges being dismissed. If you refuse to give a breath sample, then the prosecutor will not provide you with a negotiation option or plea offer. When you refuse, it starts you off in a worse position, but it also means that if you were heavily intoxicated and may have had a blood alcohol content of .20 or higher, then you are no longer facing mandatory jail time for having high blood alcohol content. There is a balance that needs to be struck. It’s difficult to think about that at the time, but those are some of the benefits and drawbacks to giving your breath sample.

The breath sample you provide at the station is the only breath sample that can be used as reliable evidence in court. The breath score that you are asked to provide when you are pulled over is never usable in court. It serves no purpose aside from confirming the presence or absence of alcohol. There is no penalty for declining to provide that sample. The only breath sample that matters is the one that you provide at the police station. That is the only breath sample for which there are legal penalties if you do not provide it.

Can Someone Request To Give A Blood Sample Instead Of A Breath Sample?

People can request to give a blood sample. It’s not frequently offered, but a person has the ability to request to provide a blood sample. For example, there have been various problems in DC with breath testing, so if a person does not trust the DC breath testing system, they can refuse to provide a breath sample and request to give a blood sample instead. The prosecutor or the police may deem that a refusal, so it’s important to make sure you voice that request and that you ask the police officers to note that request in your paperwork.