Pulled over after drinking? What to do!
by Morgan Sauder, Senior Attorney
What a dreaded feeling, to see an officer flip their lights on behind you. You’ve been drinking and a million things are going through your mind. What should you do? What do you have to do? What if you don’t do something that is asked of you?
STOP: First and foremost, pull over in a timely fashion. Don’t endanger yourself, passengers, other motorists or officers by taking them on a wild goose chase. If an officer is telling you to pull over just do it, or you’ll potentially face felony eluding charges.
STOP TALKING: You are under no obligation to make small talk with the officer. That includes answering questions such as where you are coming from or where you are going to, if you’ve been drinking, if you have any idea how fast you were going or why they pulled you over. When they pull you over, provide them with your license and registration upon request, but otherwise tell them you will be remaining silent. You can politely say “Are you detaining me or am I free to go?”. They may pick up on enough cues to have probable cause to believe you are intoxicated, those usually include the odor of intoxicants coming from the vehicle, bloodshot and glassy eyes, slurred speech and obvious open intoxicants in plain view. They may ask you to submit to either a PBT (Preliminary Breath Test) or FSTs (Field Sobriety Tests).
PBT: Preliminary Breath Tests, or PBTs, are a legal encroachment into your 4th Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure. If an officer has probable cause to believe you are intoxicated they may ask you to submit to a PBT, the little handheld device you blow into that is supposed to be able to give an approximate BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration). If you refuse to do a PBT, you automatically lose your driving privileges for 1 year. You have a very short window of opportunity after your refusal to hire an attorney and fight the refusal charge. If you refuse, the officer will quickly get a warrant for your blood and drive you to the nearest hospital for a blood draw.
FSTs: Field Sobriety Tests, or FSTs, are the silly human tricks officers put people through along the side of the road. You do not need to do these silly human tricks, the officers are only collecting more evidence to use against you! They are looking for cues decided on back in the 1970s by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to prove you are too impaired to drive. They often include such tests as the HGN (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus) where you can’t move your head but you have to follow their finger or pen around, the one leg stand or the walk and turn. Even totally sober some of these tests make people look like fools, so just politely tell the officer you will not participate.
BOOKED: Once you have been asked about a PBT and FSTs, if the officer believes there is enough evidence to arrest you for Operating While Intoxicated, they will read you your Miranda Rights and an Informing of the Accused form. They will take you to be booked at the police station. At several times they will try to get you to talk to them. Remind them that you are not answering any questions, but do give them the necessary information they need, such as who will be picking you up from the station as your responsible party. Do not let them push you into talking by being nice to you, telling you that innocent people talk or by making threats about how they think your defense will go if you don’t talk.
RELEASED: Call us! ASAP. There are so many time sensitive things to take into consideration when you have been arrested for Operating While Intoxicated. First, hire an experienced attorney who you can feel confidence in to help you with your case. Then, you can talk all you want.
Hang in there, we are here to help!
Do I Need an Attorney for an OWI 1st?
by Morgan Sauder, Senior Attorney
Wisconsin is unique in that an OWI 1st (Operating While Intoxicated) is classified not as a crime, but as a traffic offense. People frequently handle traffic offenses on their own, most often by just paying the fine.
Paying the fine is the same as entering a guilty plea. Once the fine is paid, a guilty plea is entered on behalf of the driver and a SR-22 form needs to be provided to your insurance company. That’s it, you can just pay the fine and be done. Could it really be that simple? Sure, but…
With years of experience, we have learned things are not as simple as they appear for OWI 1st clients.
If you have a CDL, entering a guilty plea on any new drunk driving charge means you can say goodbye to your CDL. A lot of people earn their living on their CDL and don’t realize the life changing impact of an OWI after getting a CDL license.
Even for those without a CDL, getting an OWI 1st will absolutely raise your insurance rates. You will also lose your driving privileges for a minimum of 6 months, likely longer. You will have to attend an Alcohol Assessment and be given a Driver Safety Plan to reinstate your driving privileges after your revocation.
Depending on your level of intoxication and whether or not you caused an accident or have an aggravated driving record, you may also be faced with a PAC (Prohibited Alcohol Content) charge, increased driver license revocation and be forced to put in a costly IID (Ignition Interlock Device) on any vehicle you own or operate and pay the monthly fees for the IID.
As with any offense, whether or not you use an attorney your decision, but it is always recommended to work with a legal professional who can help guide and defend you.
Russell Law Offices, S.C. has attorneys on staff with significant experience handling OWI cases in Southern Wisconsin and would be happy to come on board and help you with your defense. Call today for a free consultation.