What happens if you get pulled over by a cop and you have been drinking?
As a DUI Attorney in Seattle I see this scenario every day I go to work. Somebody is out where they have a drink or two and then decide to drive home. On their way home they get pulled over by a police officer for committing a minor traffic infraction. And boom next thing they know they have been arrested for DUI and they need a DUI Attorney. But how does it go from driving home to facing a DUI charge. Well let me tell you.
First if you have had anything to drink. Regardless of how much or how little. If you’re driving and you get pulled over by a police officer you will get arrested for a DUI. Especially in Seattle and in King County where the police seem to be really cracking down.
Here is the typical sequence of events for the initial contact between the police officer and driver. A driver gets pulled over. The officer contacts the driver. Asks for license and other vehicle information. At this point if the officer smells an odor of alcohol, or if they detect slurred speech, or if the driver has bloodshot watery eyes. Then they typically ask if they have been drinking. Now regardless of the answer the Officer will ask the driver to exit the vehicle.
Now a full blown DUI investigation is about to take place. The Officer may ask the driver again if they had anything to drink. The officer may start asking more detailed questions about the consumption. Things like when was your last one, how much exactly did you drink, what did you drink. Stuff like that. Keep in mind during this entire time the police officer is documenting everything the driver says. For example if the driver was slow to exit, or fumbled for the rights words because they are nervous. This will all be used against you.
At this point the police officer will ask the driver if they want to do some “voluntary” field sobriety tests. Although they are not typically phrased in the way where the driver actually believes they have a choice in doing them. The first test done is usually the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, followed by the walk and turn test, then the one leg stand test. If the officer has a portable breath test then that will be last.
Now I have never heard of someone getting let go after they complete the tests. Heck I have had clients pretty much score perfectly on the tests, or I have had clients take the portable breath test and be significantly lower than the legal limit. And they all got arrested the same as someone who couldn’t stand and threw up on the cop.
From here the driver is taken to a police station where they will be asked to provide a breath test. The Miranda warnings are usually read here as well as the implied consent warning. If the driver was cooperative and it was their first DUI arrest they most likely will be released, unless of course the police officer is a total A-hole. Then they will get booked into custody. Unfortunately this time of life altering decision is left to the discretion of the police officer. Some will be jerks and some will not.
So there you go. Once released the driver will have to wait at least 12 hours before picking up their car at the tow yard. And then the wheels of the criminal legal system slowly move and the criminal case begins.
_ About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI Attorney in Bellevue and Seattle, WA. He is rated a perfect 10 out of 10 by Avvo.com, and was recently named one of the best Seattle DUI lawyers by the Seattle Met Magazine.