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What to Do If You are Pulled Over: Part 1 (A pre-diving checklist)

I will begin this post as I will begin many others; please don't drink and drive.  It's stupid and REALLY expensive if you get caught, not to mention you might kill someone.  DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE.  That being said, here are some tips on what you can do if you get pulled over and the officer could suspect you of drinking.

So before you start the car, go through the following checklist to reduce your chances of having a bad experience with the police.

1. Check your breath.  Preferably, through a portable breath testing device like this.  While not 100% accurate and your BAC changes as the time goes on (studies estimate that total alcohol absorption takes around 90 minutes for the "average" person) it can give you some indication if you are being too risky in deciding to drive.  If you have not purchased one of these machines, then just check your breath the old fashioned way.  At trial, if a police officer says that he detected an odor of alcohol coming from you, getting out of trouble gets a lot harder.  Mints and gum can help change your breath, although they have both been described in cases as "masking agents" to hide the odor of alcohol.  Even so, it is better to give your attorney an argument about masking agents than just smelling like booze.

2. Check around to make sure no alcohol bottles or anything else that could get you in trouble is lying around the car.  Police call this "plain view" and they can then search the rest of your car with no warrant and have the probable cause necessary to make you submit to field sobriety testing.  It is a lot harder to say "I have not been drinking" when there is evidence of your drinking lying around the car.  Clean it up!

3.  Check your appearance.  When a police officer comes to your window and stares at you, he is not just making polite conversation.  He is evaluating everything about your behavior and appearance.  On the police officer's report, there are checkboxes for things like "glassy, bloodshot, or watery eyes" (this is always checked.  They may even come pre-checked by the manufacturer) "disheveled clothing", and "flushed face".  So make yourself presentable.

4. Have your license, registration, and insurance documentation in one easy to reach a convenient place.  Another checkbox on the police form is "fumbled when getting a license".  If they are in separate places, not only do you run a higher risk of dropping them and seeming intoxicated, you also make the entire encounter with the police longer than it has to be.  By having all the requested documents in one place, you don't fumble around and the police don't have as much time to make a case against you.

5. Check your car.  People that come to me for help on their DUI/DWI do not get pulled over for swerving through traffic, speeding, or driving like a lunatic.  Instead, they get pulled over for a completely unrelated reason and then they get arrested for the DUI.  By avoiding the initial contact with the police, you don't have to worry about the subsequent investigation that may lead to your arrest.  Expired tags? Plates belonging to someone else?  Tail light is out? Something hanging from your rear-view window? Plate light not functioning?  All of these things are pretexts for a legal stop by the police.  The Constitution prevents the police from stopping people at random so they must have reasonable suspicion or articulable reason for pulling you over.  Even something as slight as something hanging from your rearview window gives the police the right to stop you and start an investigation.  Make sure that you do not have any obvious legal violations before you drive so there is no reason to pull you over.

6. Don't be an idiot.  If you have been at a bar where they either stamp your hand or make you wear one of those paper wrist bands, wipe or take it off before you drive.  Don't have any drug/alcohol/anti-cop bumper stickers on your car.  Don't allow 10 people into your tiny car.  Make sure none of your passengers have drugs or outstanding warrants.  Just use common sense.

If you have been arrested and/or charged with a DUI/DWI in Branson, Nixa, Ozark, Springfield, Greene County, Chrisitan County, Taney County, Stone County, or anywhere in the surrounding area of Southwest Missouri, please schedule a free consultation today by calling (417) 221-4113 or by clicking "Contact Us" above.