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What to do if You've Been Pulled Over for a DUI

Getting pulled over is rarely a pleasant experience, and if you have been drinking it can be terrifying as well as having lasting consequences. Driving under the influence is always a bad decision, but unfortunately still occurs - the 2015 Annual Report of the California DUI Management Information System reported 160,388 DUI arrests in 2013 and over the last ten years has consistently maintained an arrest rate around 70-80%. California has extremely strict penalties for DUI offenses, so if you find yourself in this situation it may help to understand what rights you have.

Sections 23152(a) and 23152(b) of the California Vehicle code make it illegal for a person under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle as well as for any person who has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, respectively. Furthermore, Section 23612(a)(1)(A) of the California Vehicle Code outlines California's implied consent law, which assumes that anyone who drives a motor vehicle with a California Driver's License has given consent to chemical testing of his or her blood or breath for purposes of determining BAC.

While there is no guaranteed method to escaping a DUI arrest, there are a few things you can do. You are required to show your license and registration, but you may decline to answer questions such as, "Have you been drinking?" or "How much have you had to drink tonight?" You may exercise your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by declining to answer any incriminating question, even though the officer may not have read you your rights.

Additionally, you may refuse to submit to a field sobriety test. Field sobriety tests are designed to test your motor skills and ability to operate a motor vehicle, but scientific studies have criticized their accuracy. Under the stress of being pulled over, it can be difficult for any individual to complete these tests without making an error, which could cause the officer to decide you are intoxicated.

If an officer asks you to submit to a roadside breath test, or a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) device, you may refuse unless you are on probation for a DUI conviction or are under 21. However, if you are arrested for DUI you must submit to a chemical test under California's implied consent law. At this point, you have the choice of a breath or blood (or urine) test. Breathalyzer's have a built-in margin of error, and can therefore be attacked more easily at trial. However, a breath sample cannot be retested - an independent lab can retest a blood or urine sample.

Being polite and respectful to law enforcement can also go a long way. Staying silent is often best, as you do not want to give a police officer any incriminating evidence. However, cooperating and maintaining a courteous demeanor can certainly help, from influencing the way an officer writes a police report to preventing additional charges.

Above all, if arrested for DUI, contact a criminal defense attorney who has experience with DUI offenses.

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