Welcome back to our ongoing series, “What to do if you’re pulled over for DUI.”  Last week, we discussed the false notion that South Carolina has a zero tolerance policy towards drinking and driving, and how prescription and recreational drugs can also be the basis for a DUI arrest.  Today, let’s talk about what happens when you’re on the road, even before those blue lights pop up in the rearview.

You’ve probably noticed that on weekends and holidays, there are more cops on the road.  In addition to potential jail time, DUI convictions carry large fines and are very profitable for the State and Municipalities.  Make no mistake, cops are actively and vigorously pursuing DUI arrests, even when supported by little evidence.  This means that they are watching every driver on the road for any excuse to claim that the driver’s behavior indicated they could possibly be intoxicated.

Here at Farnsworth, we study the  National Highway Traffic Safety manual.  This is the manual from which all police nationwide are trained on how to investigate a DUI.  The NHTSA manual says that there are 24 specific cues that a cop is looking for that would provide a basis for a DUI stop.  Do not give them a chance; drive carefully!  Those 24 cues include things like accelerating rapidly, weaving in your lane, and responding slowly to traffic signals. Generally speaking, you should just make sure that you drive safely and don’t draw attention to yourself.  And if you’re driving at night, for god sakes, turn your lights on.  You wouldn’t believe the number of people who get pulled over for this simple oversight.

If you’re in the unfortunate position of having been pulled over, remember, the only way the cops can prove that you are under the influence is through observing your actions.  This includes your words.  You will be asked if you’ve had anything to drink.  If the answer to that question is anything but “NO!” you will be giving them evidence to convict you.  Either clearly say that you haven’t had anything to drink, or politely decline to answer the question.  Or, if you’ve only had one drink with dinner earlier, and know the officer will smell it on you, then tell him what you had.  But if you’ve had more than one (or maybe two), don’t answer.  (Just ask him whether or not you’re supposed to have a lawyer with you when being questioned?… Officer will say “No, not at this time”…. but he will quit asking questions.

As the cop is trying to get you to admit to being under the influence, he will be using his other senses to collect evidence.  Anything that smells like alcohol (or other drugs) will raise suspicion and ultimately be used against you. Check your breath and clothing before you get behind the wheel to make sure you don’t smell like beer and cigarettes. If you do, maybe consider a stick of gum or putting your jacket in the trunk.  Do your best to avoid giving law enforcement any evidence.

From this point on, you will be on camera.  Your actions will be scrutinized and eventually used against you to try to show that you were drunk.  Stay calm, be polite, and keep the chatter to a minimum.  

If the officer believes that you may be under the influence (and trust me, that’s what he or she is looking for), you’ll be asked to step out of the car.  In our next segment, we will discuss what will happen then, and what you need to keep in mind to stay out of trouble, or help us win your case if you get arrested anyway.

Next week:  The Roadside Sobriety Tests…