During the holiday season, law enforcement increase DUI patrols and set up checkpoints across Pennsylvania. Even if you have only had one drink, it can be easy to panic and wonder what you can do when pulled over. If you have had too much to drink, it is even more important that you understand your rights.
If you are pulled over this holiday season, remember:
1. Pull over to a safe spot. When you see the flashing lights of a cop car behind you, your instinct may be to pull over to the first place you can or simply stop. But your safety – and the safety of the officer – is important. Take a moment to make sure you are pulling over to a safe spot.
2. Be polite and respectful. While you want to minimize what you admit to the police during a traffic stop, it is important to always be polite to the officer. He or she is simply doing their job, and politeness can go a long way to minimizing the penalties you face.
3. Don’t admit fault. The officer will ask you questions about where you came from, where you are going, what you drank tonight, and similar questions. Even if you state that you “only had a couple of drinks,” you are giving the police officer a reason to give you a Breathalyzer or a field sobriety test. You can and should say, “Respectfully, I do not wish to answer that question.”
4. Do not consent to a search of your car. If the officer asks to search your vehicle, you can say no. The officer may still search the car if he or she as probable cause to do so, but you do not need to give them permission to search without probable cause.
5. Remain calm. Even if you know that you are over the limit and may be facing criminal charges, it is important to remain calm. Even if you are arrested, your attorney may be able to have your case dismissed or the penalties reduced.
6. If arrested, ask for an attorney. You have the right to an attorney after an arrest for drunk driving. Your lawyer will then be able to guide you through the process and help to minimize the penalties you face if convicted. Additionally, if this is your first offense, your lawyer may be able to help you get into a special program for first time offenders in Pennsylvania.