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I’ve Been Pulled Over for a DUI—Now What?

holiday drunk driving

First of all, make note now that if you’re ever feeling any doubts about your ability to drive, just don’t do it! The expense and hassle of being convicted of a DUI are immense, and with the popularity of ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft, finding another way home is easier than ever. But perhaps you had a momentary lapse in judgment and got behind the wheel of your car when you shouldn’t have and were seen by an officer driving erratically, or perhaps you got caught up in a DUI checkpoint and have been detained for further questioning. Read on for things you should know if you’re pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence in Virginia.

  • Stay calm and be respectful.

From the moment you’re pulled over, the police officer will be monitoring your behavior for signs of intoxication. Remain calm, and don’t make sudden movements. While you need to obey direct orders and should provide officers with identifying information, do not offer anything beyond this.

  • You aren’t required to answer questions

Other than providing your name, other identifying information, and documents such as your driver’s license and registration, don’t engage the officers. If they ask if you’ve been drinking, either say “no,” or “I’d rather not answer that.” There’s a natural inclination to seem helpful and cooperative when speaking with a police officer, but speaking with them more than absolutely necessary will only give them a chance to gather evidence of slurred speech or bloodshot eyes and give them cause to arrest you based on factors which are subjective and may be due simply to the way you speak or the fact that it’s late at night.

  • You aren’t required to take field sobriety tests

If the officer orders you to get out of the car, you need to obey him or her. However, if you’re asked to complete field sobriety tests, such as the “one-leg stand” or “walk and turn,” you can refuse to participate.

  • You aren’t required to take a preliminary breath test

The police officer may request that you take a preliminary breath test, or “PBT.” This is the handheld roadside version of a breath test to measure the amount of alcohol in your system. The officer may even tell you not to worry, that this test can’t be used against you in court. This is partially true—the numeric results of the test can’t be admitted, but the test CAN be used by the officer to support a probable cause determination, which is required before you are arrested. You can decline to take this test, and while the officer may have other sufficient cause to arrest you, declining the roadside breath test itself does not result in any direct penalties.

  • If you’re arrested, declining to take a blood or breath test could result in high penalties

Virginia is an “implied consent” state. This means that, by driving in Virginia and having a Virginia driver’s license, you have implicitly offered your consent to a blood or breath test for the presence of alcohol or narcotics if you’re arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, and you no longer have the right to refuse to take these tests. If you nevertheless refuse, and have no prior convictions for DUI or prior incidents of refusing such a test, you face a civil offense and a 12-month suspension of your license.

  • Before answering any questions, ask for your lawyer

Once you’ve been arrested, it’s more important than ever that you speak as little as possible to the officer. In fact, these four words are all you really need: “I want my lawyer.”

If you’re facing charges for driving under the influence, or are in need of an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney in Virginia on another matter, contact the Pack Law Group at any time of the day or night, at 540-586-7225.

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