In the dead of night you happen to be returning home in your car, only to be accosted by the men in blue, the cops that insist on testing you for Driving under the influence (DUI). Their revolving lights, throbbing siren and probing flashlight are part of a dreaded routine that is seeing many shakers and movers collared for a crime that they wish would go away but won’t. Exactly what constitutes a DUI offense, and where does the law draw the line?
It takes time for alcohol to be broken down and eliminated from your system, and all that while its concentration in the bloodstream keeps increasing. An alcohol reading of 0.08 percent or more paves the way for a conviction for driving under the influence. In a person of average size and dimensions, the danger mark is exceeded after consuming around four drinks. So now you know where the cop draws the line.
Traffic rules insist that you drive within the road rules and maintain your car in road worthy condition. That means taking pains to remove mechanical defects, especially the visible kind like fused lights, cracked fenders and broken mirrors. A rule violation means you get picked up for suspicious or unruly behavior. Break these rules and you are begging to be pulled over and booked for DUI.
There is a practiced etiquette involved in pulling over to the right side pavement when you are hailed down by the cops. Do it smoothly avoiding excessively jerky and sharp movements. Don’t create a ruckus. Switch the interior lights on and roll down your windows (that helps as it releases bad odors). Keep your hands on the steering and avoid fidgeting till the officer comes around. Above all, answer the questions calmly and courteously without belligerence. In short, you convince the officer that you are not intoxicated enough to pose a danger to yourself or the public.
The moment you pull over to the pavement and get accosted by the police you are obliged to show your driving license and vehicle registration if asked, and you may also be requested to part with information like where you came from or where you are headed and whether you have had a drink. At such moments it is advisable not to panic or utter any falsehood that comes immediately to mind. You are well within your rights to decline comment. The last thing to utter is a bland “Just returning from Boilermaker officer, but I haven’t taken much, honestly.” The officer can request you to come out of the vehicle so he can look into the vehicle from the outside, but he can’t search the vehicle. You can politely refuse intrusive demands.
Marked slurring in your speech while answering the officer’s questions, the reek of alcohol in your breath, unsteadiness in your gait or suspicious behavior might give the game away and prompt the officer to conduct Field Sobriety Tests. The important thing to remember is that these tests are optional and you can refuse to undergo them, keeping in mind that by the time you are arrested and taken to the police precinct your condition could return back to normalcy and favor you with a more normal reading. If you have taken more alcohol than the permissible limit it would be in your best interest to refuse the tests.
The officer arrests you immediately and proceeds to take you to the police station where you will be subjected to breathalyzer tests and blood and urine sample verification. What you can expect is that the arresting officer will read you the Miranda rights, inform you of the right to remain silent and rights to have an attorney represent you. It is important to understand that refusal to undergo the tests places you in an unfavorable light in court proceedings especially if the conviction is upheld, besides the ignominy of having your license suspended for a year.
Before you appear at the hearing
Following your arrest and investigation involving the battery of tests, the law enforcement agencies get a good idea about your condition, and if your level of intoxication is way above the standard norms you will be booked and released temporarily. If you harbor a history of crimes (multiple offenses) you could be escorted to jail immediately where you can endeavor to post bail after seeing the judge.
The DUI conviction and ensuing penalties
For starters you could automatically lose your license for a year and face a hefty fine or jail term or both. Blood alcohol limit exceeding 0.15, multiple convictions and injuries to other people or property related damages to third parties could see you facing more severe penalties. The socially damaging consequences would be loss of face following intimation of the crime to your landlord or employer, and cancellation of your auto insurance policy or facing steeper insurance premiums. You could also be barred from holding a commercial driving license – bad news if that is vital to holding your current job.
Each situation presents unique facets and it will be well neigh impossible to navigate the complexities of the DUI conviction and aftermath all on your own. This is but a brief introduction to the issue alerting you to the possibilities of conviction and a simple guide to its consequences. But it will hold you in good stead to have an attorney explain things and guide you through the process.
Consuming alcohol impairs your ability to drive safely considering the alarming increase in your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) that follows, and unwittingly you could become party to serious vehicular damage or cause grievous personal injury to an innocent bystander, hence the severe penalties following a DUI conviction. The DUI conviction if proved is to be taken seriously considering the enormous social consequences of your negligence.