Traffic stops are never anyone’s idea of a good time, but they happen. While a traffic stop can be very frustrating, it is important to keep your cool and remember the facts about the law. Ideally, one wouldn’t get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking at all, but the decision can’t be undone. Many misconceptions about a person’s rights can cause further complications, making a situation go from bad to possibly even worse. A polite attitude and knowing a bit about the law ahead of time can help you if you ever find yourself involved in a DUI traffic stop.
First things first, when you see lights behind your car, make sure you use your signals correctly and pull over as soon as you see a safe area to do so. From the start, you want to give the impression that the officer is in control and that you respect their authority. Remain in the car and wait for their instructions as they approach your window. There is a lot of confusion surrounding field sobriety tests and if you have the right to refuse one.
One common misconception is that if you refuse a breath or blood alcohol test, your license will be suspended for one year. This actually isn’t true. In fact, your license will only be suspended following a post-arrest blood or breath test. For example, if you have been pulled over and the officer suspects you have been drinking, they can utilize other ways to determine your intoxication. Using other field tests such as eye exams, the one leg stand, asking you to walk in certain directions or repeat other motions to decide if you are driving while intoxicated.
Driving while intoxicated will result in arrest, and refusing a breath or blood test after arrest can result in a license suspension. So, you do have the right to refuse a breath test prior to arrest, but if the officer has a reason to arrest you, they can ask you to perform a breath test under the State of California Implied Consent Law. Refusing or failing the test can cause your license to be suspended for a year or even revoked, depending on the severity of the situation. If you find yourself being arrested, remain as calm and compliant as possible. Failure to do so could earn you additional unwanted fines and charges.
Next time you decide to go out for a drink, plan ahead and bring along a designated driver. If you don’t have a driver available, consider other options such as calling a cab or taking public transportation. Alcohol and driving don’t mix well, besides losing your license and incurring court costs or even jail time, you could lose your life or hurt someone else. The best way to avoid complications with the police is to avoid them entirely, so play it smart and stay safe!