Man driving a car

What to do When Pulled over for Suspected DUI

Brownstein Law Group, P.C. July 26, 2022

I am often asked what someone should do if they get pulled over.  Should they ask for a lawyer?  Should they not say anything?  Should they refuse a chemical test?   They’ve seen too many TV shows and movies and read about outlier cases that often lead to wildly incorrect assumptions. 

1.      Be Cooperative but Say as Little as Possible

2.      Refuse to Take Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs).

3.      Refuse to take a Preliminary Alcohol Screening Test (PAS).

The police need probable cause to arrest you for Driving Under the Influence. Generally speaking, “probable cause for arrest exists if facts known to the arresting officer would lead a person of ordinary care and prudence to believe and conscientiously entertain an honest and strong suspicion that the person is guilty of a crime.”   A police officer will determine the existence of probable cause based on the totality of circumstances presented to him or her at that moment.      

Be Cooperative but Say as Little as Possible

Very little can be accomplished by being confrontational with a police officer.   Being angry or disrespectful will ultimately be put in their report and be an indicia – incorrectly or not -  of being under the influence.   Provide your license and related documents upon request.   Do not argue, but you are also not required to admit to anything incriminating. 

Refuse to take Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests are optional.  You cannot be punished for not agreeing to take them.  They were created by the National Highway Safety and Transportation Agency (NHTSA) and are notoriously unreliable and rarely administered correctly.   The “science” behind them is flimsy at best.   While most clients believe they passed these tests, I often tell them that I’m still waiting to see anyone pass them.  During a recent trial, I was able to demonstrate to the jury that the police officer himself failed the test while demonstrating it to my client.  The bottom line is that you are far more likely to give probable cause for an arrest than you are to “pass” them. 

Refuse to Take a Preliminary Alcohol Screening Test

The Preliminary Alcohol Screening test (PAS) is optional.  Again, you cannot be punished for not agreeing to take one.  Like the field sobriety tests, a police officer will likely tell you that its done to solely to determine if you’re safe to drive home.   If they’ve gotten as far as to request the PAS, the reality is that they are looking for probable cause to arrest.   You don’t have to give it to them.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  The PAS is different than the chemical breath test or blood test that is administered after you are arrested.   Refusing to take a breath or blood test after being arrested can lead to drastic consequences, including significant license suspensions with no options for restricted driving.   Please see upcoming article pertaining to “Refusals.”