Many law enforcement agencies and special interest groups have promoted the idea that drinking and driving is not legal. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is not illegal to drink and drive in the State of Illinois as it is in Hungary or the Czech Republic. We are not a zero tolerance state. Many people do have wine, beer or mixed drinks with dinner and then drive home under the legal limit of .08 and within the bounds of the law. The fact that you are within the bounds of the law will not stop some overzealous Police officers from pulling you over after enjoying a dinner with family and friends.
If you are pulled over on suspicion of DUI in Illinois, it is understandable that you might feel nervous, shaken, and flustered. However, it is important to remember that your words and conduct during these interactions with the police are critical. Not only could your actions help you avoid an arrest, but they may actually help you fight your DUI case if you are charged. Hiring an experienced Illinois DUI defense lawyer is essential to obtaining a favorable outcome. However, the strength of your defense will also depend in part on remembering the following tips for what to do when pulled over for drunk driving.
DO Safely Pull Over Your Vehicle
As soon as you see lights flashing or hear sirens, calmly pull over to the side of the road in a safe spot. Avoid erratic maneuvers or disrupting traffic around you, which could raise the suspicions of the officers. Plus, you could be charged with an additional traffic violation.
DO NOT Make Incriminating Statements
Other than offering your driver’s license, registration, and basic identifying information, never volunteer any other statements in response to questioning from an officer. When asked about where you were, what you were doing, or where you are going, the best response is to state: “Officer, I was advised to not answer any questions.” Your responses to these questions may incriminate you, so it is wise to avoid replying. The officer will not be happy with your response and will attempt to apply psychological pressure to you in order to get you to talk. This pressure can be the threat of arrest or actual arrest. Do not give in to these tactics. If an officer arrests you and does not have proof of his hunches, the case will be thrown out of Court.
DO Remain Calm and Do Not perform Field Sobriety Tests
An officer will presume that you were drinking simply by your level of anxiety, providing probable cause and further investigation by police. Keep control over your nerves and do your best to hand over documents calmly. Field sobriety tests are a battery of tests that MAY yield a probability that you are under the influence of alcohol. Although they are governed by strict government regulations on how they are to be performed, officers rarely perform they to the NTSHA standards that are required. If the tests are not done properly, they will yield an improper result. Factors like injuries, lighting, weather conditions, or even your weight and body type can significantly affect the test result. Officers frequently ignore these factors and make the arrest regardless of how the individual performs.
DO NOT Submit to a Breathalyzer Test at the Scene
Many motorists assume that they must submit to a breathalyzer test when they are pulled over for DUI. However, this preliminary, informal test is not mandatory. In fact, the State legislature specifically wrote your right to refuse these tests into the state statue. The portable devices police use in the field are notoriously inaccurate, and the results cannot be used in court. They are subject to heat, cold, humidity and alcohol carry over from the person who may have blown into the machine before you. You may be a .05, but if the person before you blew into the machine and was also a .05, that alcohol can carry over into the next blow and the machines reading for you could be significantly higher. However, they should not be confused with the comprehensive blood, breath, or urine tests administered at the police station. These tests, provided under controlled circumstances, may be conclusive proof of your blood alcohol content (BAC) for a Court of law. These machines are self-calibrated by a computer and rarely have human hands touch or check on them for accuracy. The state police assume that the computers are correct and the sample it is testing is valid. There have been incidents where both of these are not true and the machine gave a reading that was simply not accurate and did not conform to the dictates of the law. You also have the right to refuse this test.
DO be Polite and Courteous
Even if you are angry or frustrated, this is not the time to vent. Be civil to the officers who pull you over for DUI. You risk making things worse if you become argumentative or disrespectful.
Consult with an Illinois DUI Defense Lawyer About Your Options
Even if you fail to follow some of these tips on what to do if you are pulled over for DUI, an arrest does not equal a conviction for DUI. A prosecutor must prove the essential facts to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Plus, you do have options for presenting evidence in your defense. When you consider the harsh penalties of a conviction for drunk driving, you can see the importance of hiring an attorney with in-depth knowledge and experience in these types of cases.
For more information on how to defend against drunk driving charges, please contact Glasgow & Olsson at 847-577-8700. Our skilled lawyers are nationally recognized experts and published authors in the field of DUI law and happy to answer your questions and help develop a strategy to fight for your rights.
(image courtesy of Matt Popovich)