Did you know that 29 people in the U.S. are killed every day by drunk drivers? That’s a human life needlessly taken every 51 minutes. According to the CDC, in 2015, drunk driving was responsible for approximately 10,000 deaths, one-third of the total traffic-related deaths.
It’s no wonder law enforcement is so tough on drunk drivers. What happens when someone gets pulled over for a DUI the first time? The penalties for being pulled over for a DUI are increasing every year and getting more and more strict.
What Happens When You Get Pulled Over For A DUI & Convicted?
Jail time: How much jail time one receives depends largely on what state they are in and how much damage they caused. Most first-time DUIs are often categorized as misdemeanors, but if they caused damage, the incident could get classified as a felony. Some people might get off easy and only have to do community service. Many places will keep you in jail until a judge can be seen. If you’re pulled over for a DUI on a Friday night, you might have to wait until Monday to even see a judge and have any chance of getting out of jail. Long weekend? You might have to wait until Tuesday.
Costs: An initial fine might cost somewhere between $500 and $2,000, but that’s just the beginning. There will also be additional costs like court fees, increased car insurance rates, lawyer fees, towing and impoundment fee, license reinstatement fees, and so on. Those convicted of a DUI can expect to pay a total of between $13,000 and $27,000, and possibly, even more, depending on how expensive their lawyer is.
License suspension: Drunk drivers may have their license taken away from them, though this depends a lot on where they live. For example, those living in California will have their license suspended for six months after their very first DUI. They usually have the option of applying for a restricted license that would allow them to drive to work, school, and any court-mandated programs, but it’s up to the court to decide what privileges one will get.
Classes: Many people who have been pulled over for a DUI are required to take special drug and alcohol classes, as well as being forced to take traffic school or other educational programs. This costs additional time and money.
In-car breathalizer: Even when you get your license back, being pulled over for a DUI usually means you’ll have to have a breathalyzer installed into your vehicle. This breathalizer usually needs to be paid for by you and must be calibrated every so often which also costs money.
The easiest way for someone to not get pulled over for a DUI is simply not to drink and drive. The $30 or so one pays for a Lyft or Uber is nothing compared to the costs of getting a DUI. But what should someone do if pulled over for a DUI?
What To Do If You Get Pulled Over For A DUI
1. Act respectful. Drivers should slowly pull over and be as polite to the officer as possible. Police officers are going to be more lenient towards people who act kind towards them as opposed to those who act belligerent. Drivers should hand over their license, registration, and insurance and step out of the car when asked.
2. Know their rights. Drivers always have Miranda rights in these situations and there are times when staying silent is beneficial. Police usually ask self-incriminating questions such as “How much have you been drinking tonight?” However, drivers aren’t required to answer these questions and may respectfully decline. It’s better to decline than to say something like, “It was only one or two drinks.” When you’re pulled over for a DUI you are required to perform certain tasks such as a sobriety test, but you do not need to self-incriminate by making statements to the police.
3. Take the required sobriety tests. You will likely be asked to do field sobriety tests such as standing on one leg, walking in a straight line, or moving their eyes in a certain direction. These tests are very subjective. They don’t measure the subject’s alcohol levels, but rather looks for physical signs of drunkenness. Drivers can always tell the police that such tests aren’t necessary and refuse to participate, but in many states refusing a sobriety test results in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license and the fines can be as bad or worse than an actual DUI. Alternative sobriety test measures may also be used instead such as alcohol breath tests or even blood tests. The Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test is a commonly administered test where the driver blows into a handheld breathalyzer device. These tests are well-known to be very subjective. Not taking the PAS can result in having one’s license suspended, but then again, so can being found guilty. Drivers will have to undergo a test at some point, but they can always opt out of this particular preliminary test.
4. Official test at the station. Once taken back to the station, drivers will usually have the option to choose between two types of tests. The first one is a breath test. DUI lawyers suggest taking this one since its validity can be easily attacked in court. Plus, declining this breath test can end in a license suspension due to implied consent laws. Additionally, refusing a breath test the second time around might not look too good in court. The second option is to undergo a blood test, which is usually more accurate and can be retested later on. Refusing this test cannot result in prosecution due to a court ruling passed on 2016.
5. Jot down everything. Those pulled over for DUI should take notes and start writing every little detail they remember. Examples of what to write include how much alcohol they consumed, when they were pulled over, how the police acted, what they said, and so on. Every tiny detail is important even if it seems insignificant. For example, a someone who was wearing high heels would have a difficult time performing some of the field sobriety tests. More information means that one has a better chance of winning their case.
6. Hire a DUI lawyer. A convicted driver’s DUI lawyer is the last barrier between them and jail, so choosing the right one is important. Defendants should ask potential candidates several questions such as how many cases they’ve won and how much experience they have. A good lawyer will do everything they can to defend their client.
At the end of the day, drinking and driving is a stupid idea that nobody should do. Drivers should be smart and weigh their options. Everyone with a cell phone can call a Lyft or Uber home and pick up their car in the morning. Drinking and driving puts everyone, including the driver, at deadly risk.