What Should I do if I am Stopped for a DUI?
According to Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys Curtis Fallgatter and Lisa Varon, if you are pulled over by police and suspected of DUI, you should be careful and be prepared. The first thing a police officer will ask for is your driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance card. Make sure you have placed them in a convenient location, so you are not fumbling around trying to locate them. Police are looking for any signs of impairment, and from the moment they stop you, they are evaluating whether you are impaired by alcohol or drugs. Do not have an open container in the vehicle because that will give police the impression that you have been drinking and are impaired.
If the officer has “reasonable suspicion” that you are impaired, they will ask you to perform Field Sobriety Tests; which might include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, walking a straight line heel-to-toe, standing on one leg, reciting the alphabet with your head back and your eyes closed and the finger-to-nose test. In each of these tests, they are looking to see if you follow instructions and if you sway back and forth or from side to side. You do not have to perform Field Sobriety Tests, but if you do, and perform poorly, it is just additional evidence that will be used to show you were impaired. Many people have trouble performing these tests, even if they are not impaired. You should refuse these tests if you have alcohol or drugs in your system, have any medical concerns, are over age 65, are more than 30 pounds overweight, are wearing uncomfortable shoes, or were in an accident. If you are asked to perform Field Sobriety Tests, you will probably be arrested no matter how well you perform, so in most cases, it is better to refuse. Finally, you should not perform the tests unless the officer is video recording your performance. Leaving it up to the officer to testify how you performed on the tests is not in your best interest. Having that video record of your performance, especially if you do well, can assist us in getting your case dropped.
If you are being investigated for DUI, it is best to refuse to answer all questions, and politely tell the officer that you wish to remain silent and will not answer questions without an attorney present. Most police officers will ask how much you’ve had to drink. If you say one or two drinks, they believe you are lying, and if you say more, it is proof of impairment. That is why it is better to invoke your Constitutional right to remain silent and to have an attorney present before answering any questions. Often, right before they arrest you, the officer will ask you a series of trick questions. For example, “On a scale of zero to ten, how impaired do you think you are?” Obviously, that is a trick question, and if you choose to answer, you should say that you do not think you are impaired at all. If you answer by saying even a low number, such as a 1, 2, or 3, that is admitting to some level of impairment, and will be used against you in court. Another question, might be, “Would you drive with your child in your condition?” Again, you should refuse to answer, but if you do answer, your answer should be that you are not impaired.
Importance of Having an Attorney When Charged with DUI
Being arrested and charged with DUI is a serious matter, with penalties that can be quite severe, including jail time, probation, driver’s license suspension, vehicle impoundment, and high fines. DUI convictions can have lasting repercussions on many aspects of your life, including income, insurance costs, and even future employment. Having experienced criminal law attorney representation is the first step towards obtaining a successful outcome. At Fallgatter Catlin & Varon, P.A. we have extensive experience in handling all types of DUI cases, from first offenses to multiple arrests. Curtis Fallgatter is recognized as one of the most successful criminal defense attorneys in America. A former Federal Prosecutor with over 40 years of criminal law experience, Curtis is often called upon to give legal opinions on complex criminal matters on both local and national television programs. Lisa Varon has been practicing criminal defense law for over 25 years and is the former President of the Northeast Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the premier criminal defense organization in Jacksonville. Together, Curtis and Lisa have over sixty years of shared experience in handling all types of criminal law cases involving crimes from DUI, DUI manslaughter, and murder to white-collar crimes such as racketeering and embezzlement. The law office of Fallgatter Catlin & Varon, P.A. is committed to protecting your legal rights and is with you every step of the way. If you have been arrested for DUI, before answering questions or making statements to any official, contact our office at 904-353-5800. Our free, no-obligation consultations are available right now.