DUI Court Process: The Stopping Sequence

You are driving home when you see a car following you closely.  The car is acting unlike any other car you have ever encountered and you begin to wonder if you are in danger.  At that point you see the flashing emergency lights and hear the piercing wail of a siren.  You heartbeat begins to spike, your stomach sours with a flood of cortisol and your hands begin to sweat.  Little do you know that the officer’s DUI investigation has begun.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (hereinafter NHTSA) provides the training manual for law enforcement in detection of drunk drivers.  The NHTSA manual specifically trains the officer to observe your “STOPPING SEQUENCE” and look for clues of impairment.  “These cues may include:

  • an attempt to flee;
  • no response;
  • slow response;
  • an abrupt swerve;
  • sudden stop; and
  • striking the curb or another object.

See NHTSA Manual, Feb. 2006, V-10.  “The driver’s task becomes more complex when the stop command is given.” V-10  “Stopping itself requires the driver simultaneously to turn the steering wheel, put on the brakes, use a turn signal and so on.” V-10

What Should You Do?

Stay calm and know your rights!  The police officer is looking for cues that you may be impaired by alcohol.  This is not the time to share feelings of frustration or anger at being pulled over.  Demonstrate control of yourself and your vehicle.  Pull to the side of the road and provide as much space as possible for the officer to approach your window. When the officer arrives at your car window he/she is understandably concerned about safety. Keep your hands where the officer can see them, do not run and do not touch the officer. The officer usually begins the stop by asking if you know why he pulled you over, and may ask if you’ve had anything to drink. You are not required to answer potentially incriminating questions. A polite “I would like to speak with an attorney before I answer any questions” is a good reply. On the other hand, saying that you had one or two beers is not incriminating: it is not sufficient to cause intoxication — and it may explain the odor of alcohol on the breath.

Interfering with or obstructing an officer is a crime and you can be arrested for it. You must present the officer with your driver’s license and identification upon request. Upon being stopped under suspicion of drunk driving, the officer will try to stick his head near your face and attempt to have a conversation with you. He is seeking to ascertain if you have an odor of alcohol about your breath or person. The officer is also seeking to determine if your speech is slurred. By getting a good look at your face, the officer can determine if your eyes are blood-shot or glassy. Not surprisingly, finding an odor of alcoholic beverage, slurred speech and glassy eyes will prompt the officer to ask you to step outside the vehicle to take some field sobriety tests. You have every right to refuse the standardized field sobriety tests! These tests are being conducted so as to be used against you in court. Common field sobriety tests include the HGN, a test of your eyes, the Walk and Turn test and the One Leg Stand test.

If the officer asks you to exit the vehicle you have a choice. If you do not wish to exit, you are forcing the officers hand. He or she may arrest you and take you to the station. If you do exit, the officer may ask you to take the field sobriety tests sited above. If you do not take the tests then law enforcement has less evidence against you. If you feel you are impaired a trip to the station will be less intrusive than a conviction. Refusing to cooperate with the field sobriety tests will not result in an automatic license suspension, but refusing to take a blood, breath, or urine test at the station most certainly will. By knowing that you have a right to refuse field sobriety tests, you may be able to limit the evidence against you at trial.

Once outside the vehicle, an officer has the right to pat you down for his own safety. Do not resist this search but make it clear to the officer that you are not consenting to any further search. It is not a crime to refuse to answer questions, but doing so will arouse police suspicion. Remember, if an officer is questioning you he or she is seeking evidence to use against you. Do not make any incriminating statements. A common tactic used by some experienced officers is the “it’s all over now, I’ve arrested you, let’s be honest” approach. They are seeking to solicit information to bolster the arrest and use against you in court. If you feel you are being treated unreasonably, or that your rights are being violated, the scene is not the proper place to argue the point. You can discuss the officer’s behavior with an attorney or file a complaint with the Internal Affairs Department later. A common technique that an officer will use will be to ask you “how many beers have you had?” The best answer is simply to refuse to answer the question and ask the officer if there is anything else that you can help him/her with. Again, by knowing your rights you will gain a measure of control over this intimidating situation.

Please check out the information in the “DUI PROCESS” category of this blog for important tips on how to protect yourself from the first possible moment.  Charles M. Rowland II provides this information to empower you to make the best decisions about your case.  For over fifteen years Charles Rowland has been representing the accused drunk driver and has become Dayton’s choice for DUI defense.  Please visit www.DaytonDUI.com or CONTACT Charlie at (937) 879-9542 or 1-888-ROWLAND [888-769-5263].

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