Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

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DUI Traffic Stops: How to Conduct Yourself

Posted by Writing PIs on July 4, 2018

Over the years we’ve investigated many instances of people being arrested at DUI traffic stops or being pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving. Probably the most important piece of advice we can offer is to designate a sober driver if you’re going out to party on a holiday like the Fourth of July. The rest of this article addresses how to interact with law enforcement should you be requested to drive through a DUI checkpoint or be pulled over for other reasons.

An Easy Drive-Through Technique?

Some of you may have read about the lawyer who advertises that it’s possible to maneuver your way through a DUI traffic stop without any personal interaction with law enforcement. He endorses putting requested papers in a plastic bag and either holding them against the inside of the driver’s window (for the officer to read) or handing them out a slightly cracked window to the officer. Supposedly the officer then waves on the driver without any further conversation.

A nifty story, but not a good idea.

Be Prepared

Always keep your current vehicle registration card and insurance documentation in an easily accessible place. If you’re instructed to pull into a DUI checkpoint, be prepared to interact reasonably with law enforcement.

Pull Over to a Safe Spot

We once had a client who panicked when she saw red-and-white flashing lights in her rear-view mirror. She slowed to a stop immediately – which was problematic as she was driving in the center lane of a freeway.

If you see the swirling lights in your rear-view mirror, don’t panic. Simply pull over to a safe parking spot and turn off your engine. If it’s night-time, turn on your dome light.

Roll Your Window All The Way Down

Rolling it down a crack, or even halfway, might look suspicious. Better idea to roll it down completely, which indicates you have nothing to hide.

Put Our Your Cigarette

Better to extinguish your cigarette than to hold it in your hand as it could be viewed as a weapon.

Place Your Hands on the Steering Wheel

Place them slowly toward the top of the steering wheel (the ol’ 10-and-2-o’clock spots) where they can be clearly seen. This reassures the officer of his/her safety, and it also indicates your cooperation.

Don’t Get Chatty

Sometimes people get nervous and start talking excessively during a traffic stop. Keep in mind that anything you say can be used against you. Don’t offer information about that “one beer” you had with your pals as that gives the officer a reason to further his/her investigation. Let the officer decide whether or not to pursue an investigation based on your driving and your behavior after the stop.

We once had a case where a client began joking with the officers, as if an impromptu stand-up comedy act would endear him to the officers. He might have gotten away with that – the word “might” being debatable – if he hadn’t decided to end his joke-a-thon with a back flip (he landed on his behind). Word to the wise: don’t go “Jerry Seinfeld” or perform circus tricks, either.

Be Courteous at All Times

If pulled over, don’t do a “Jerry Seinfeld” (photo by Omer Toledano, CC-BY-2.0)

This is not the time to get defensive or confrontational, nor should anyone else in the vehicle be combative or unreasonable. Remember when Reese Witherspoon, a passenger, decided to get lippy with the police officers who’d pulled over the vehicle her husband was driving? They arrested him and her.

“Please Perform Some Roadside Tests”

The office may ask you to exit your vehicle, which is permissible. Slowly exit your car, make no sudden movements, and remain outside until the officer says you may return to your vehicle. This applies to passengers as well.

But if the officer asks you to perform physical roadside tests, such as walking a straight line, you have the right to politely decline. However most states require you to take a chemical test, and there are penalties if you do not, such as revocation of your driver’s license.

“May I Search Your Car?”

If an officer asks permission to search your vehicle, it is your right to decline the search. However, if the officer has probable cause for searching your vehicle, such as seeing an empty bottle of whiskey lying on the backseat, then he/she has the right to search your vehicle. 

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of the textual content requires specific, written authority. Images in this article are in the public domain.

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