Top DUI Lawyer Explains Best Way to Handle a DUI Stop

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This little traffic stop guide is brought to you by San Francisco’s very own Beahm Law.  Beahm Law Defense Attorneys have been serving the Bay Area for over 10 years, and Jason Beahm has won ‘Best DUI Lawyer’ from “Best of SF” three of the last four years.  If you or someone you love is facing a DUI or other legal emergency, you can always give them a call at 1 (844) GO-BEAHM.

Attorney Jason Beahm explains exactly what to do when stopped for drunk driving.

First of all, you should not drink and drive, period.  There are many ways to travel safely without driving your car drunk. Take a Lyft, walk, ask a sober friend to drive you, ect.  With that said, if you or someone you love does get pulled over after drinking and driving, here are the things that should be remembered:

1. Take a deep breath

Stay calm, none of the rest of this advice will be helpful if you lose your mind and do something stupid like run. The first objective is for us to get you out of this situation alive and in the best possible position. If you get arrested, we can deal with that. But if you do something stupid you could wind up dead.

2. Pull over safely

Turn on your right signal and safely and carefully move your car to the right shoulder. The officer may give you verbal instructions as to where to stop. If so, follow the instructions. If you do not hear any instructions, pull over as soon as possible and come to a complete stop at a place where you are not blocking traffic.

Once safely parked off the roadway, do the following:
Windows down
Dome light on
Car off
Turn the radio off
Hands on the wheel at 10 and 2
Take a deep breath and do not make any sudden movements

Why are these steps important? Because they set the officer at ease. It also makes him think that maybe you are military, a lawyer, daughter of a judge, etc. This set of behavior is the closest thing there is to a secret handshake that says, “I’m cool, I’m not a threat to you.” Basically, you look like a pro and if there is any chance that the cop is going to let you go, you just maximized your chances. And if he is going to arrest you, this will avoid any suspicious actions for his report from the outset.

3. Identify Yourself and Seek to End the Encounter

The officer is typically going to ask you for license and registration.

“May I see your license, insurance and registration?”

You say, “officer, my insurance and registration are in the glove compartment, and my license is in my wallet, may I reach there to get them?” (Have these neatly organized in your glove compartment and wallet).

*This is the only question that you are required to respond to. Although it is advisable to be polite to the police, you should not answer additional questions if possible.

“Do you know why I stopped you sir?”
“No officer.”

“Have you had anything to drink tonight?” 
The best answer to this is a polite but firm: “Am I free to leave?” The reason for this is because your goal is to limit the interaction and make it clear that you do not wish to stay. If the officer asks what the rush is, it’s always good to have something to be in a hurry for. You can alternate with, “am I being detained”?

If you do this right, you just increased the chances you are let go. However, if they smell any alcohol, we are likely moving to the next level.

4. Field sobriety exercises

The good news. Field sobriety exercises are optional. That’s right, optional, and I do not recommend doing them. EVER. Most people do them. They shouldn’t. They aren’t fun, they are not a very good form of exercise, and everyone looks ridiculous doing them.  We want to keep your interaction with law enforcement as short as possible. So decline to do them.

So What if he asks, “do you mind stepping out of the car?”

I would say “yes sir, and I’m going to invoke my right to remain silent. I want a lawyer.” —( I would close the door behind me as I get out and close and lock the door and place the keys in my pocket. (You aren’t entitled to a lawyer during the DUI investigation, but it is still a good idea to ask for one anyway.)

*If you have been drinking, refuse PAS -portable breath test, unless you are a minor or on a probation that requires you to take the test.

This is what a typical breathalizer machine looks like at police stations

5. Getting Arrested

You hoped it would never come to this, and yet here you are at the police station and the police are telling you that you have been arrested and you have to take a chemical test, either blood or breath. Which should you do? Can you refuse this test as well?

There are penalties for refusing to take a chemical test after a DUI arrest in California. Under California’s “implied consent” law, all drivers lawfully arrested for a DUI, must take a chemical test to determine their blood alcohol concentration and/or the amount of drugs in your blood. If an officer has probable cause to believe you have been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the officer can require you to submit to the test. If you refuse, they can get a warrant from a judge and forcibly draw blood from you.

*Possible consequences for refusing both a blood and breath test at the Police station will lead to a minimum one-year suspension of your driver’s license.

Blood Test: if you have done any drugs at all recently, do not take the blood test. For example, marijuana can show up weeks or even a month after the last time you used it. Even trace amounts can still lead to DUI in California.

Do take the breath test they have at the station: Typically the “Intoxilyzer” is considered less accurate than a blood test, and cannot be kept for retesting. For most purposes, I believe the breath test at the station is the best option, as it is the least invasive and can only test for alcohol.  To sum things up: refuse the portable breath test at the traffic stop, and take the breathalyzer at the station.  If you have taken any drugs (including cannabis in the last month, DO NOT TAKE A BLOOD TEST.)

Epilogue: Hey, I did everything you said and they still arrested me, put me in handcuffs and took me to jail WTF!?

Well, I can’t go back in time and un-drink the alcohol for you, which is likely what you needed. This advice is not in any way guaranteed to keep you from being arrested. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t, either way, this advice is designed to help you emerge in the best possible legal position so that your attorney will have the strongest possible arguments to make for you in court.

Quick tips:
*Ask for a lawyer
*Invoke right to remain silent
*Refuse PAS -portable breath test, unless you are a minor or on a probation that requires you to take the test

If they ask to search your car, respond as follows:
“Officer, I do not consent to a search of me or my property.”

I am an attorney, but I am not currently your attorney. Do not rely on what I have said here as legal advice. Instead, you should seek and retain a lawyer!

Jason Beahm

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Jason Beahm

Jason Beahm

San Francisco's Beahm Law has over 10 years of legal experience and has won "Best of SF" three of the last four years, (voted by readers of the SF Weekly.) If you or someone you love is facing a DUI or other legal emergency, give us a call at: 1 844 462 3246