The holiday season brings many things -- including a lot of mulled wine and spiked eggnog. It's probably no surprise that the number of alcohol-related driving violations rises by more than 100% during this time of year. Partially, that's due to increased alcohol consumption during the season of good cheer. Partly, it's because the police know that there's increased alcohol consumption going on, so they put out more effort around the country to enforce DWI laws. If you get pulled over on the way home from a party or dinner where you were drinking this holiday season, do you know what to do?
1. Don't create a problem for yourself.
The officer may not be suspicious -- yet -- that you've been drinking. You might have been pulled over for something like a broken taillight or a missing tag. Wait until you find out what the officer wants before you start worrying that you're about to face a DWI. Put down the window and air out the car and have your license and registration ready. You want to minimize your contact with the officer so that he or she doesn't notice the smell of alcohol on you. Limit your conversation as much as possible.
2. Be careful how you answer questions.
If the officer asks if you've been drinking, don't lie. If you only had one drink and it was several hours ago, you could admit the truth and hope for the best. However, remember that you can be arrested for impaired driving even if you aren't legally drunk. If the officer says that you were spotted driving erratically, it's still impaired driving, even if you only consumed one drink.
Lying is a bad idea. If you end up being subjected to testing, the test results are going to prove that you were drinking. Lying to a police officer is another crime. Even if you aren't prosecuted for it, you'll lose any credibility that you have if the case goes to court and the jury sees you lying on film.
If you don't want to risk the truth, the best thing to do is say something like "I'm not comfortable answering that. I'd like to speak to my attorney before I say anything." And then stick to that.
3. Consider your options carefully.
In many states, you can refuse to take a field sobriety test and you should. Field sobriety tests involve things like standing on one foot and balancing and reciting the alphabet backward. That can be difficult to do for any number of reasons, not the least of which is the stress of being pulled over and asked to perform these tasks at the side of the road. If you've gotten to this point, the odds are good that the officer already believes that you are impaired, and he or she thinks that the field sobriety test will be useful as evidence against you in court.
In many states, you can refuse the breathalyzer test and insist on a blood test instead. However, this is a much more difficult decision to make. Breathalyzers are notoriously inaccurate and have a 50% margin of error. Plus, they can read artificially high due to things like elevated blood sugar levels and remnants of alcohol in your mouth. Blood tests are considered far more accurate.
That means that, depending on how much you had to drink and how close to the legal limit you think you are, you might want to pick the inaccurate breathalyzer over the accurate blood test. Why? You'll still get arrested, but you'll have a better chance of challenging the unreliable breathalyzer results in court than you would the reliable blood test.
The best option, of course, is to not drink and drive. However, if you make a mistake and you end up arrested, contact an attorney such as Carl L. Britt, Jr.
I'll be up front: I have a criminal record. As someone who's spent lots--and lots--of time looking for a job in my life, I've gotten used to being up front with this fact. It's difficult to get hired with this on my record, and frankly, it never gets less scary to have to tell an interviewer about it. But that doesn't mean I'm unemployable. I'm a hard worker who can bring a lot to any company. And I also know what an employer needs to do for me. I know my rights. There's no federal law protecting me from discrimination due to my record, but there are plenty of state laws that make it a little easier for me. If you're looking for a job and you have a criminal record, read through this information. Protect yourself during a job search. Know your rights.