The Dos and Don’ts of a DUI

Moriarty & Associates on Dos & Donts to Avoid Being Arrested for DUIThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides training to police officers in DUI detection and standardized field sobriety testing. They’re teaching manual divides DUI detection into three phases.

Phase I involves the vehicle in motion. In other words, what driving did the officer observe that would justify stopping the car. Most DUI arrests start with a person being pulled over for a simple infraction. Typical examples include speeding, rolling through a stop sign, failing to use a turn signal, equipment violations, etc. If this happens and the police smell the odor of alcohol or marijuana, you will be investigated for driving under the influence.

Phase II involves the police officer’s personal contact with and observation of the driver. Here, the officer is determining whether he/she should have the driver exit the vehicle and be asked to perform field sobriety tests. Factors can include the odor of alcohol or marijuana; answers to questions relating to alcohol or drug use; the physical appearance of the driver (e.g., blood shot/watery eyes, disheveled clothing, etc.); and observations of the person’s fine motor skills (e.g., whether the driver can produce a license, registration. and proof of insurance without difficulty).

Phase III of DUI detection involves pre-arrest screening. This involves the administration of field sobriety tests.

The most frequent question I get from clients arrested for DUI is: “How do I deal with the police in those circumstances?” The recommendations I give here apply in almost any instance where a police officer seeks to question you. Never forget your important rights.

First, you have the right to remain silent, and you should exercise it. When an officer asks for your license, registration, and proof of insurance, you should provide that information and that is all. When the officer asks “How much have you had to drink tonight?,” you should respond with a question of your own: “Am I free to leave?” or “Am I under arrest?” If you admit to consuming alcohol, you’re admitting to the element of the crime of DUI. Worse, if you deny drinking alcohol and have been, you’re pitting your credibility against the police officer’s. That is never a wise decision. The smart thing to do is not answer the question and ask to speak to a lawyer. In future posts, I’ll discuss how police and prosecutors use field sobriety tests and why you should not do them.

Pulled Over? What to Do

For those looking for short and brief recommendations when stopped by police after having been drinking, I suggest the following actions.

Do: Identify yourself—have your registration and proof of insurance within easy reach.

Do Not: Answer questions regarding consumption of alcohol or drugs. Instead, tell the officer you would like to speak to a lawyer before answering questions.

Do: Be polite and respectful at all times.

Do Not: Consent to Field Sobriety Testing or a Portable Breath Test.

Do: Insist on speaking to a lawyer as soon as possible if you are arrested and before taking a breath test at the police station. Remember, Public Defenders are available 24/7 for advice to those arrested.


Attorney Patrick M. Moriarty earned his Juris Doctorate from Western New England College School of Law in 1990. He is the founder of Moriarty & Associates, PLLC, and serves as a judge pro tempore in district and municipal courts in Snohomish County. Learn more.

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