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The Dozen Things To Do If You Are Stopped

If you see blue lights:

  1. Pull over as soon as possible in a well-lit area. If on a highway, be certain you are pulling into a median or off on the shoulder of the road far enough to leave the officer enough room to be able to approach the car. If on a secondary road, pull into a parking lot if one is available or off onto a side street, remembering to pull in far enough to leave the officer enough room to safely pull in behind you. Put the car in park and turn it off.
  2. Locate your license, insurance card and registration. Hopefully you keep those in the same place day in and day out with the insurance card and registration in your glove compartment and your license in the same place in your wallet. You do not want to struggle to find these.
  3. Be aware, however, that if the officer is approaching your car, you do not want to lean over and enter the glove compartment as the officer may fear you are attempting to obtain a weapon.
  4. Be polite. The officer is simply doing his or her job. Whether the officer is making correct decisions is an issue we will address later. It does you no good to antagonize the situation or make it more difficult on yourself. Now is the time to use all of the rules and manners your mother and grandmother taught you. Be polite, courteous, pleasant and respectful.
  5. Do not play "Jeopardy" with the officer. If the officer asks "Do you know why I stopped you?" unless there is no question that you know the answer, such as you were speeding 95 in a 50, refuse to play the game and politely respond "No, I did not think I was doing anything wrong." If the officer inquires "Do you know how fast you were going?" unless you have a digital speedometer that tells you the exact mileage, answer no.
  6. Be quiet. The officer at this point in the stop will not have read you your Miranda rights. He or she will likely not do that until you are arrested, which is what the law requires. That does not mean you are under any obligation to answer any questions at this time and you should politely refuse to answer any questions about where you were or where you were going or if you had something to drink or how much you had to drink or any other personal questions. The only statements that will get written down by the officer or mentioned in the report are those that he or she thinks work to your disadvantage. Do not feed the beast. Do not provide any information that can be used against you.
  7. Refuse to do field sobriety tests. You are not required to perform field sobriety tests as they are voluntary. You are not under arrest at this time and so anything you do or say is voluntary. Tell the officer you will not take the tests as the DMV did not ask you to do them before it gave you a license. Explain to the officer you are willing to do any normal tests — for instance, walking as one normally would on a line or standing before the officer so he or she can determine that you are not swaying or weaving, but not standing before the officer with one leg in the air. Decline politely to do the follow the pen test (horizontal gaze nystagmus, or HGN) as you cannot evaluate the officer's conclusions and, even if videotaped, the camera is not of sufficient quality so that we can determine later whether your eyes bumped. Every officer will testify in every case that the person failed the HGN test.

    Field sobriety tests are designed for you to fail. The training manual gives officers tips on how to make them more difficult. These tests do not reflect any ability necessary to drive or test the balance and movements you use in everyday life. Driving is an ordinary activity and if any tests were to be used, they would test your normal abilities.
  8. Exercise your rights. If the officer has placed you under arrest, he or she has likely read you your Miranda rights and you should exercise them. Do not think you can talk yourself out of a DUI. It has never happened and you will not be the first. Remember not to discuss with the officer or answer any of questions about personal issues concerning your evening or your intake of food or alcohol. Do not allow the officer to get you to "rate yourself" as very often, they say, "If one is buzzed and 10 is drunk, what are you?" Any answer, even one, admits you have violated the law.

    If the officer wants to discuss fishing, country and western music or the weather, feel free to speak with him or her about those issues, but decline to answer any questions or discuss in anyway anything to do with your arrest.
  9. Refuse to take the Breathalyzer test. I recognize this is a difficult decision as your license will be suspended on the spot and you face a six-month suspension for refusal to take the Breathalyzer. It is easy for an attorney to tell you what to do when I don't have to face the consequences. The best advice, however, is not to submit to a machine that cannot be cross-examined, is not brought to court, and for which the manufacturer has never provided to defense counsel the source codes used to develop the machine so we can determine if it is accurate and, if so, to what degree. Essentially, you are turning yourself over to a box that will decide your future. That should be a frightening proposition and one you should not become involved with.

    While you will be suspended, you have the right to obtain a temporary alcohol license (assuming this is a first DUI) and have the right to an administrative hearing where the suspension can be challenged. If successful in challenging the suspension, your regular license will be returned to you until we complete the matter in court. If unsuccessful, you will have to attend the South Carolina Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP) to obtain any driving privilege.
  10. Get someone to post your bond if necessary to be released.
  11. Recover your vehicle from the tow service.
  12. Hire a qualified criminal defense lawyer.