One night you’re driving home from the party or a casual evening at a friend’s house. You’re not drunk, but maybe you had a beer or two. You’re not speeding, but maybe you briefly went over the speed limit to pass a slow car. All of a sudden, the rear view mirror is filled with the tell-tale flashing lights of a police car. After a few seconds that last an eternity, it’s clear that the officer wants you to pull over.
What do you do? What do you say? How do you make sure that you comply with the lawful demands of the police without saying or doing anything that will hurt you in Court? So you need to know in a nutshell what you should and should not do.
With the obvious disclaimer that each situation is fact-specific, and that you need to follow your own common sense, here are some general do’s and don’ts I offer my clients for this type of situation:
What to Do:
- If the officer directs you to pull over, pull over. Pull over in as safe an area as is immediately available to you.
Keep your hands on the steering wheel until the officer tells you that you can move them.
- When directed by the officer, present your license, registration, and insurance card. Tip: have this organized and available well-ahead of time so you don’t go fumbling for them when asked. Don’t go reaching into your glove box or elsewhere until you ask the officer if you may do so, as they don’t know what you may be reaching for.
- Stay in the car unless and until you are told to exit. If you are asked or ordered to step outside the car, you should do so.
- Tell the officer that you wish to have your lawyer present for any further questioning.
- If breath samples are requested, give them.
- Call your lawyer as soon as possible.
- Be polite, but read below….
What NOT to Do:
- Do not volunteer information. Don’t think that you’re helping yourself by admitting that you were drinking, drunk, speeding, possess marijuana, etc.
- Do not answer police questions. Resist the internal pressure you may feel to defend or explain yourself to the officer. It’s not necessary and it can hurt you in the long run.
- Do not engage in what might seem meaningless “chit chat”.
- Don’t lie. Better yet, don’t say more than you absolutely have to.
- Don’t be hostile or aggressive towards the officer, they are just doing their job—let them do it.
- Do not submit to balance or other field sobriety tests.
- Do not consent to the searching of your car.
- Do not sign any documents.
If you are reading this article, it’s probably because you or someone you know has been pulled over in the past for drunk driving or another traffic offense. At that time, you probably failed to follow some of the advice offered here. Did it result in points? A suspended license? Fines or jail term? Or maybe you’ve found this article because you’ve just been pulled over and gotten a ticket. In either case, please write down my name and telephone number: David C. Barry, Esq., (732) 238-8300. I am an experienced traffic and DUI/DWI attorney. I’ve been successfully defending New Jersey motorists since the 1980’s. Call today for a free consultation. Let my experience and insight be of assistance to you.