Updated: Mar 13, 2020
A large percentage of our cases are Driving Under the Influence (DUI) infractions. Through countless trials and investigations, we have learned a lot about how individuals respond to police interactions when suspected of a DUI. Please use this information as an informative guide regarding your rights when you are suspected of a DUI. We stand firm by the notion that the best way to avoid a DUI is to not drive under influence, there are so many avenues in the District of Columbia that you can utilize that may cost, but are a lot less than retaining an attorney for a DUI case.
1. Take a deep breath and remain calm.
If you’re being pulled over, safety is your main priority. Find a safe place to pull over, if possible, off of the roadway and away from traffic. Roll down your windows, keep your hands on the steering wheel, and greet the officer with as little words as possible. Even if you know why you were pulled over, you DO NOT need to acknowledge it or explain it. The less you talk, the better.
Most importantly, no matter how intoxicated you may be, it is important to always remain polite and avoid any sudden movements or erratic behavior. Not only could this potentially make the officer “fear for his safety”, but you can also rest assured that any unusual behavior will show up on the police report.
2. You can refuse to take the Field Sobriety Test (FST)
Many people do not know, but the FST is completely optional. Most times when an officer asks you to complete a FST, they will not tell you that you do not have to take this test. Instead, they will ask you to take the test in a way that makes you feel that it’s mandatory. Officers are trained to observe certain clues of impairment and will tell you that this test is not pass or fail - but it definitely is. In our experience, 9 times out of 10 if you are asked to complete a FST, you will most likely be arrested for a DUI. Even sober, there is a good chance you wouldn’t pass this test. You do have the right to refuse the FST and your refusal cannot be considered as evidence that you’re impaired.
3. You do not have to answer any of the officer’s questions
Again, when you are suspected of a DUI, all of the officer’s questions are a part of their investigation. There is no right answer, every answer is the wrong answer. The best responses are “Am I free to leave?” “Am I under arrest?” “Can I speak to my Lawyer?”
4. Saying that you only had a little bit to drink is a bad idea
Everyone says they had one or two beers. It is honestly the most common response we hear when an officer asks, “How many drinks have you had tonight?” Most times, the officer and the prosecutor use that answer as an admission of guilt. You’ve now admitted too drinking. You do not have to answer this question. YOU ALWAYS HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT.
5. You can refuse to do any chemical testing, but there are consequences
You do not have to take the breathalyzer, pee in a cup, or give blood. These tests are completely optional. However, if you refuse either of these chemical tests, you can and sometimes will lose your privilege to drive. You should also understand that if this is not your first DUI, there are provisions of the law that allow the government to argue that you refused the test because you were under the influence. In any case, if you have been drinking, this test can be extremely incriminating and definitely will not help you if your case goes to trial.
6. Not every police organization in D.C are required to wear body worn cameras (BWC)
It is important to understand that not every police entity in the District of Columbia is required to wear BWC. Specifically, only Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and Special Police Officers (SPO) wear BWC. I bet you are asking yourself why does this matter? This matters, because without BWC footage, the court is completely relying on the officers recollection of what happened when you were stopped as evidence. Therefore, as inaccurate as it may be, it is quite difficult to challenge their testimony without seeing the incident as it occurred in real time. However, not having BWC sometimes works in your favor. It forces the officer to stick to what they wrote in their report, even if it is a complete lie.
7. Consult an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible
It is important to understand that there are many policies and procedures that police officers must follow during the process of investigating and ultimately charging you with a DUI. In every DUI case, there are many factors involved. This includes violations of your constitutional rights, scientific testing, and possible equipment malfunction. An experienced DUI attorney will be able to identify if, and where, the police officers may have gone wrong.