What do a Pulitzer Award winning playwright, an NBA star and an NBA legend have in common? DUI arrests within the last week. Sam Shepard, Antoine Walker, and Charles Barkley show us yet again the legal risks accompanying drunk driving.
And it's not just for the famous. Over a 21-day holiday DUI crackdown campaign in Alameda Count,y California, more than 1200 people were arrested on DUI charges. The calamity of a holiday reveler's first DUI charge easily becomes the gift of business for DUI lawyers. For celebrity and plebian alike, here are some helpful FAQ's about what happens when one gets pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence.
Q: Can they pull me over even if I'm driving fine?
A: Yes. Most if not all states allow DUI checkpoints where law enforcement can perform an initial inspection and further investigation if suspicion is aroused. Additionally, any reason an officer might pull you over - expired tags, broken tail light, etc. - will allow an officer the opportunity to assess your sobriety.
Q: Do you have to take the breathalyzer test?
A: No, you may refuse to take a breathalyzer or other chemical sobriety test, but there are consequences. Most states have "implied consent" laws which dictate mandatory penalties for refusing to take a sobriety test. These can include automatic suspension of your license. Further, at your trial, the prosecutor can tell the jury that you refused to take the test. Some states allow consultation with an attorney before deciding whether to take a chemical sobriety test.
Q: If you blow under the legal limit, are you home free?
A: No. Even if your blood alcohol level is below the legal limit, you can be convicted of DUI. Evidence including testimony as to your driving, your statements, your appearance, your performance on field sobriety tests and video tape at the scene can be used to convict you of DUI. Driving with a blood alcohol level over the limit is "per se" DUI, meaning no other evidence is needed. In many states, certain drivers (such as teens) are subject to zero tolerance DUI laws, allowing conviction with any trace of alcohol.
Q: Does the officer have to read you your Miranda rights to ask about your intoxication?
A: No. The officer must read you your rights if deciding to arrest you for DUI. Before arrest, questions, field test and chemical tests to assess your sobriety do not require that they read you your rights.