It is not uncommon for people to have a drink after work or over a dinner in a restaurant. And on occasion, some of these people are stopped by police either for a traffic infraction or suspicion the driver was impaired.
If this happens to you, you’ll almost certainly be stressed, somewhat confused and uncertain as to what to do.
After all, beyond the obvious safety considerations, a traffic stop after you’ve been drinking is a legal issue and chances are, you won’t have your attorney sitting next to you in the front seat.
So, how should you handle being pulled over after drinking in Missouri?
It’s Important to Remember that EVERYTHING Matters When You’re Pulled Over
As with any traffic stop or interaction with police, it’s crucial that you understand everything you do, don’t do, say or don’t say has a potential legal implication.
How you’re driving, how you pull over, what you say, how you act, your tone of voice – pretty much everything that happens during the stop – can end up helping an officer and a prosecuting attorney build a case against you.
Conversely, taking the right steps will help your attorney in the event that you’re eventually charged with driving under the influence.
All eyes and ears are on you. This should be your overarching thought in everything you do in any traffic stop, especially in one that takes place after you’ve had some drinks.
The Flashing Lights Just Came on; You’re Being Pulled Over
You’re getting pulled over. You’ve had a drink (or three) with dinner. Remember these steps:
Signal, then find the first safe place to pull over and do so slowly, avoiding any erratic driving. Even the most sober driver can get rattled in this situation. Take a deep breath and be thoughtful. Traffic stops statistically are one of the most dangerous parts of the job for police officers, so crack the driver’s window, shut off your engine, turn on your dome light and put both hands on top of the steering wheel.
Remember, you’re likely on camera and how you interact with the officer may well end up being used against you in court. Plus, being rude of abrasive to a police officer usually doesn’t benefit you. Hand the officer your driver’s license and insurance card, but don’t hand him or her a bad attitude.
If or when the officer asks if you’ve been drinking or how many drinks you’ve had, do not answer. Any answer confirming you’ve had even one drink or been in a bar will give the officer more reason to continue questioning and investigating.
Field Sobriety Tests? Just Say No
What many people do not realize is that field sobriety tests are difficult for many to pass, even in their most sober state. Keep in mind, in addition to the tests – which involve various balanced-focused tasks – you’ll likely be performing the tasks on a dark roadside or sidewalk, with headlights or a flashlight in your eyes and often on an uneven surface. Politely decline the test, even if the officer asks more than once.
What About the Breathalyzer Test?
There are portable roadside breath tests and there are official breath tests administered at a police station. Taking the portable, roadside test can give results allowing an officer to arrest you. Refusing to take the portable breath test does not violate Missouri’s implied consent law, essentially meaning if you secure a driver’s license in the state of Missouri, you’re giving consent to be required to take a breathalyzer test.
Under Missouri law, refusing to take the test at the police station results in an automatic one-year suspension of your license. However, refusing this test also means there is less evidence against you.
Missouri Law allows you to fight the one-year suspension. Should you refuse, the officer will take your driver’s license and issue you a temporary 15-day license. It’s crucial that you contact an attorney in that 15-day period.
Should you take the test and are found to have been over the legal blood alcohol limit in Missouri, which is .08 percent for non-commercial drivers, you’ll need legal representation to limit the penalties you face and lessen the impact on your life. You should also expect some type of administrative alcohol suspension of your license.
Effective Missouri DWI Representation Is Key
Driving under the influence is a serious matter and can be a complex legal issue. Penalties can be life-altering. This is no time to go it alone without experienced legal representation.
The attorneys of Marler Law Partners have a long track record of successfully representing clients in all types of traffic violations, including DWI. If you’ve been charged with a DWI/DUI offense, contact us today for a complimentary consultation.