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CODOT has tallied nearly 146k arrests since the inception of The Heat Is On, Colorado’s DUI enforcement period program. Three hundred and fifty of those arrests were made during New Year’s 2017 alone.
Needless to say, our state takes drinking and driving seriously, and so should you. If you’re reading this post, chances are good you still have time to plan this year’s celebration – and you haven’t finished planning until you’ve confirmed a safe and sober way home.
That being said, the best laid plans are always subject to unforeseen circumstances. In the event that you do drive yourself home and end up in front of a set of flashing police lights, we’re sharing a few key don’ts you ought to keep in mind to help you avoid getting a DUI.
Instead of immediately whipping off the road as soon as the officer has flipped his lights on, slow down and turn on a blinker to let them know you are quickly searching for a safe location to stop.
Remember, the cop is flashing you because he’s already noted something different about your driving. He’s already observing your behavior for his police report. Engaging in these reasonable and safe actions are a way to show that you are in control.
Until the officer has arrived at your window and asked for identification, any sudden or suspicious movements (including twisting around to watch the officer approach or jumping out of the car for any reason) may appear threatening, putting both of you in a dangerous situation.
Protocol requires them to approach the vehicle from behind. This provides them with a clear view of the situation, and it ensures that the driver would need to turn completely around in order to attack.
The only exception to this rule is when it’s dark. At night, you should slowly reach to turn on your dome light before placing your hand back on the steering wheel.
You don’t know this officer. He is not your friend. He doesn’t care that your best high school buddy is also a police officer at the same station. This is official business, and should be taken as such, which brings us to our next “don’t”…
Anything besides being friendly and helpful is likely to get you arrested – at the very least. A police officer is entitled to report every observation and opinion, charge you with resisting arrest if warranted, and assist in any way possible to have you convicted. Honesty, sincerity, and respect will take you much farther in the right direction than being rude, sarcastic, or hostile.
When stopped, you are required to provide your name, license, registration, and insurance… but that’s it. Many tend to ramble when nervous. Instead, exercise your 5th Amendment rights. However, take a look at that previous “don’t” again. Refuse to answer, but do so politely: “I’m sorry officer, but I’ve been advised not to answer any questions.”
You may be placed under arrest or have your license revoked at that moment, which can be quite unnerving, but any experienced Denver DUI attorney will tell you that having to suffer those consequences is far better than spending time in jail because you incriminated yourself.
Note: This advice is not permission to lie. If you decide to answer, answer truthfully because police have seen it all; they usually recognize being lied to, causing more problems in court.
A field sobriety test is arguably the most effective tool for a police officer in gathering evidence of intoxication (albeit unreliable evidence), and you are well within your rights to refuse.
This refusal may also see you arrested in the short term, but you’re saving yourself from giving the officer more ammunition to use against you in the case. Agree to the test and you can be sure they will share every completely subjective observation, and that you won’t come out looking good.
Going through a DUI stop can be a frightening, frustrating experience, and you may find yourself struggling to keep your cool. Remember, though, these officers are just doing their job – protecting and serving the public – to the best of their ability. Your job to remember your rights and make note of the details. What details?
Maybe you just want to get this experience over as quickly as possible. Or you’re feeling so emotional that you’re not really paying attention.
Whatever is pushing you to check out, fight it. Instead, pay close attention to everything that occurs, and as soon as you can, write down everything. The event or location you were leaving. Your interactions with law enforcement.
Fresh memories are more accurate, and even seemingly insignificant details may prove important. Clothing, for instance, can affect maneuverability during a sobriety test.
Ultimately, the best plan is to not drive after drinking. Doing this will save you from ruining your New Year’s celebration in more ways than one.
Be safe out there – and Happy New Year!
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.