A Lawyer Explains what to do if you’re stopped by the police for a DUI

By Attorney James Bogen

These tips are general considerations and are not specifically tailored to any particular situation. Following these tips does not guarantee that you will not be arrested for DUI or any other offenses, and it does not guarantee that you will not be convicted of DUI or any other offenses. If you have questions about a specific situation, it is advisable to speak to an attorney before deciding what to do.

1. Carefully pull over right away. Don't jerk over-use your turn signal and pull over gradually. Also take care to park straight, put your vehicle in park, and turn off the engine.

2. Be polite. If you are rude to the officer when you are stopped, the likelihood that you'll be arrested will be greater, and the State will argue that this is evidence of impairment if you're charged with DUI. Being rude and/or argumentative with the officer will never help your case. Ever. You should also be on your best behavior if the officer leaves you alone in the back of the cruiser. Many police departments have cameras in their cruisers. If you act up in the back of the cruiser, even when the officer is not present, this will be on video, and the prosecutor will also use this to argue that you were impaired.

3. Have your license, proof of insurance, and registration ready to hand to the officer before he approaches your vehicle. Before you start driving, keep them together someplace where they are easy to access right away (to avoid making suspicious looking movements after being stopped). If you try to retrieve these things after the officer asks you for them, when you are very likely nervous, there is a good chance that he could write on his report that you were “fumbling” through your wallet or purse to try to retrieve these things. Officers and prosecutors treat this as a sign of impairment.

4. Do not answer any incriminating questions such as where you were, what you may have in your vehicle or on your person, or any questions about drinking (i.e. how much you have had to drink or what you have had to drink). Politely tell the officer that you do not wish to answer any questions without an attorney present.

5. Exit the vehicle if and when the officer asks you to. Take care not to pull yourself up or brace yourself with your door when exiting the vehicle. Officers and prosecutors treat this as another sign of impairment.

6. Do not take any roadside tests, the breath test, a urine test, or any other test without speaking to an attorney first. Politely make it clear to the officer that you do not wish to take any tests before speaking to an attorney. If an officer is investigating you for DUI by asking certain questions or speaking of certain tests, it is a pretty good bet that the officer has already decided to arrest you anyway and is just trying to build evidence for prosecutors.

7. Do not consent to a search of your vehicle or your person. Police will search you if they absolutely want to, but not consenting may give you legal issues that your attorney can argue in court.

8. Remember that if the officer already suspects you of DUI, you are very likely going to be charged with it and have an automatic suspension of your driver’s license no matter what you do at this point. There is no “one size fits all” advice for these situations, and it is advisable to speak to an attorney before deciding what to do when you are suspected of DUI or any other offenses. If police arrest you during the traffic stop, securing a defense attorney ensures your rights are protected throughout the process.

James F. Bogen is an attorney in solo practice in Cincinnati. He focuses his practice on criminal defense in state and federal courts, DUI defense, and juvenile delinquency defense. He practices in Hamilton, Clermont, Warren, and Butler Counties. Mr. Bogen can be contacted at 513-503-7251.

A Lawyer Explains... is a collaboration between the Hamilton County Law Library and the Cincinnati Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service. The information provided in this blog is not legal advice.