It is a fact, Los Angeles County has police everywhere. They are looking to make arrests for driving under the influence, or DUI. Whether the arrest occurs at a routine traffic stop or DUI checkpoint, if you are stopped you have to know how to handle yourself.
There are numerous reasons why police may stop your vehicle. It could be that you were driving over the legal speed limit. Maybe you began drifting in and out of your lane. It could be that your license or vehicle registration was expired. Police have the right to stop your car for any suspected violation of the traffic laws. However, to do so there must be reasonable suspicion or a lawful sobriety checkpoint.
If you are stopped for DUI, here is the information you need to know:
- Turn off your vehicle and place your hands directly on the steering wheel after you are pulled over by police. If the stop occurs at night, turn on your car’s interior lights to help police know that are not a threat.
- Do not argue with police. There is a good chance you will not agree with what the officer is or is not saying. You may think he or she does not have a valid reason for pulling you over. Resist the temptation to argue. This will definitely make the situation worse.
- Answer the police officer’s questions. Do not volunteer any information or try to justify your driving behavior. Remember, anything you say can and will be used against you in court. What is worse is that what you say may result in an arrest and/ or criminal charge.
What to do if the officer request that you step out of the vehicle to take field sobriety tests:
- An officer does have the right to ask you to exit your vehicle based on reasonable suspicion.
- You have not been arrested at this point. In California, you can decline to take these tests. Keep in mind that refusing to take field sobriety tests may result in you being arrested. However, some drivers prefer this option and move on to taking a chemical test. By fast forwarding to the chemical test, it gives police less evidence to support a DUI charge.
When police have the lawful right to search your vehicle:
- If you are stopped for drugged or drunk driving, a police officer has the legal right to search your vehicle. He or she does not need a search warrant to do so. However, the officer does need probable cause.
- Having a hunch that you are driving drugged or drunk is not enough evidence. Police must be able to provide a legal reason for his or her search.
- If the police ask you if he or she can search you and/ or your vehicle, you have the right to say no. Always provide your consent verbally. It is not against the law to physically refuse consent. However, an officer can translate a physical refusal into a sign of being aggressive. This could lead to other charges.
The officer may tell you that you have the right to leave after he or she does not find probable cause for an arrest. If the officer does not let you go, ask if you are being detained. If the answer is no, the officer must let you go.
To learn more about your legal rights at a DUI stop, contact the Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin. We provide free consultations and will also answer your questions regarding the validity of your traffic stop and possible defenses to your case.