If you drink and drive, no matter how conservatively, there is a real possibility that you could be stopped, arrested and convicted of drunk driving. Many people do not realize how few drinks it takes to exceed the legal standard blood alcohol content (BAC). For the average sized person, three or four drinks could easily place them in the “drunk-driver” category. However, based solely on law enforcement’s claim that you were “impaired,” even though your BAC was below the legal threshold, you can be convicted as a drunk driver. The only additional evidence needed would be proof of some measurable amount of alcohol in your system.
Law enforcement must have a probable cause to make a traffic stop. A traffic violation, any defect that is visible on the vehicle, or a driving maneuver that can indicate that the driver may be intoxicated. If given the choice, law enforcement will stop vehicles with the most obvious violations or defects. Speeding, failing to use signals, rolling through a stop sign, or driving with burned-out lights are common justifications for stopping a motorist.
Obviously, violating any traffic law is a good way to attract the attention of law enforcement. At the same time, driving below a posted speed limit, signaling a turn a half a mile before turning or not taking your turn at a stop sign will also attract attention. The reality is that it is virtually impossible to drive more than a mile or two without violating some traffic law. If you have the option of pulling into a parking lot or otherwise avoid having a patrol car follow you for a long distance there will be less likelihood of being stopped for a traffic violation.
If you are stopped, keep your hands where the police can see them. You must show your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance if you are asked for those documents. The officer can ask you to step out of your car, and they may separate passengers and drivers from each other to question them and compare their answers. Remember, you do not have to answer any of their questions. It’s your right to remain silent.
You do not have to give the police permission to search your car. If they ask to search your car and you do not wish for them to do so, stay calm and polite, and tell them “no.” There are certain limited circumstances where the police can search your car without permission. These limited circumstances include: when they have a warrant or when there is “probable cause” to believe that criminal activity is taking place, the car was involved in a crime, or the police believe there is evidence of a crime in your car. If the police begin to search your car and you do not wish for them to do so, repeat calmly and politely that you do not wish for them to search your car. Do not attempt to stop the officer verbally or physically. This could result in criminal charges. But, do tell your criminal defense attorney that your car was searched without your permission.
The Bottom Line: Don’t drink and drive. But if you get in trouble call a skilled criminal defense attorney who will be able to look into the reasons why you were stopped or searched and determine if the event was lawful. If there was unlawful conduct, a motion can be filed with the court asking that the results of the search be suppressed among other things. Call me: 513.260.2099