Few feelings can compare with looking in your rear view mirror, and seeing those blue flashing lights, especially if we have been drinking or partying. It can happen to anyone. The question is what do we do if it happens to us. Although every situation is different, here are some general guidelines if you get pulled over. It is important to remember that the police are always suspicious, and will look for what they call “clues” of impairment. You should keep your license, registration and proof of insurance in an easy to find place. The officer will always point out that the “suspect fumbled while looking for his license, etc.” Although it may be difficult, try avoid becoming the State’s best witness against yourself. The officer may ask you to estimate, on a scale of 1-10 how impaired you are, or how drunk you are. This is a trick question as are most of the questions you will be asked. The correct answer is “ZERO.” If you are asked if you had been drinking, politely decline to answer.
If you are suspected of DUI, the officer may ask you to perform what he will call Field Sobriety Exercises. These are virtually impossible to succeed at, and you will want to consider respectively declining. If you have any physical condition whatsoever, such as bad knees, ankles, feet, diabetes, vertigo, are somewhat overweight, when you decline, you may add that. Say something like, “Officer, I have a bad knee and I decline.” The officer will tell you that your refusal can be used as evidence against you in court. He is telling you the truth, but only partially, as the results of the test will also be used against you, if you take it. If you will think back to school, if you got a 90% on a test, that would be an A. On a field sobriety test, 90% correct is an F. The first thing the officer may ask you to do is the HGN or Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test. This is where you follow a light or a tip of a pen, with your eyes. Although this test, when performed in a controlled laboratory may be accurate it is almost never correctly administered in the field. Simply decline politely. This also goes for any other exercises the officer may ask you to perform.
Another way the officer may try to pressure you into taking the tests is by telling you this is your opportunity to prove to him you are not impaired. Don’t be fooled. He already thinks you are impaired or he wouldn’t be asking you to take the tests so he can get more evidence to use against you. He may then say if you continue to refuse, I will have to make my decision based on the information I have now. Let him. His mind is already made up, and he is most likely going to arrest you regardless. The standard for him to arrest you is probable cause. This means that it is more likely than not that you are impaired. It is a very low threshold to meet, so do not be surprised if he arrests you. Once you are under arrest (and this applies to all situations) immediately ask to speak to an attorney. Tell the officer you will not answer any questions without your attorney present. Remember, keep my phone number on your speed dial, and call me as soon as you get pulled over for any reason. Once arrested you will be taken to the jail, and booked. The only questions you should answer at this point is your personal information. You will be taken to a breath testing unit, and read the Implied Consent Form, reminding you that, by accepting your drivers license, you agree to submit to a chemical test for impairment. Unless you are absolutely positive you will pass the breath test you should consider refusing it. You will then complete the booking process, and get one phone call. My office phone accepts all collect calls from the Duval County Jail. Call me anytime day or night.
The next morning, you will go in front of a judge, who may try to convince you to “resolve your case right away and go home.” Do not do this. There are many ways to beat a DUI, but once you have plead guilty it is much harder. The judge is required by law to set a reasonable bond for you. If you or your family has called the Barnett Law Firm, I will be there in court with you and ask the judge to release you on your own recognizance without bond. It is most helpful to have a lawyer with you at this time, as a judge may try to place you on an alcohol ankle bracelet or another restriction on your freedom. Attorney The Barnett Law Firm are experienced in fighting and winning DUI cases. Make sure you have the best possible representation in cases like this. DUI convictions can ruin your driving record, drastically increase your auto insurance, deprive you of your ability to drive, and, in some cases, result in mandatory jail time. Don’t go it alone.
Now that you have been released on bail, following your release from jail, it may seem like the worst is over. However, unfortunately, your ordeal is literally just beginning. First, the stakes could not be hire, for what is otherwise is a simple misdemeanor (on the first offense). A DUI conviction means your insurance rate will skyrocket, and there will be multiple restrictions placed on your driver’s license, including vehicle impoundment, mandatory suspension, and installation of an ignition interlock, requiring you to blow into a tube before driving. DUI is also a “recidivist” offense, meaning the penalties increase for subsequent convictions, including mandatory jail time for a second offense, potential felony charges thereafter, and the potential for a lifetime license revocation. A good DUI attorney, like me, can help moderate or remove many of these burdensome consequences.
You will notice on the DUI citation you received, in the fine print, it will say that the citation will act as a temporary driving permit for ten days, after which time your license will automatically be suspended without further action. In order to prevent this, your lawyer must file papers with the MVD either requesting a Formal Review Hearing, or getting you the necessary paperwork to waive the hearing, and get an immediate hardship (business purposes) license. You will want to discuss this choice with your lawyer, and do the best thing based on your personal circumstances and the facts of your case. There is no “one size fits all” answer to this question, and it is important to have an experienced DUI attorney, like me, to guide you through this process. In the event we decide it is best to have a formal review hearing, make sure that the fee you pay your attorney includes the conduct of this hearing, as well as the companion criminal case defense. Many less experienced attorneys ignore the DMV option, and can not get you the best possible outcome as a result.
It is important to never assume that, just because you made the mistake of driving after drinking, that you will be convicted. A good lawyer will know that there are often multiple grounds to question the stop, the arrest and the acquisition of the evidence against you. Police officers are human, and often make mistakes that we can use to protect your driving privileges. It is also important to find a DUI lawyer, like me, who is experienced in actually trying DUI cases. Prosecutors know who will roll over and who will fight. This can often make the difference between getting charges reduced and protecting your license. Attorney The Barnett Law Firm are experienced in fighting and winning DUI cases. Make sure you have the best possible representation in cases like this. DUI convictions can ruin your driving record, drastically increase your auto insurance, deprive you of your ability to drive, and, in some cases, result in mandatory jail time. Don’t go it alone. We are available 24/7/365.