What You Should Do If You Are Pulled Over This Holiday Season
While the holidays may make this time of year the merriest, it can also be the deadliest. Last December 415 people died in alcohol-related fatalities. According to the New York Department of Transportation, one-third of all traffic-related deaths in New York are caused by drunk drivers or intoxicated pedestrians. To address this threat, law enforcement is stepping up their patrols over the holidays.
Most people try to exercise good judgment when going out. Unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between being buzzed and being drunk. This means that some people may think they are okay to be on the road when they are not.
Being pulled over is a frightening experience. Last month, a New York man was stopped because an officer suspected he had been drinking. The man twisted himself free from the officer’s grasp and drove away in his car. It did not take officers long to find the man and arrest him. In addition to being charged with a multitude of traffic violations, including fleeing a police officer, he was charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI). He also became a prime example of what not to do if you are pulled over.
Even if we feel we have done nothing wrong, being stopped by a police officer can be intimidating. In the event that you are pulled over by the police, here are a few tips to help you figure out what to do.
Why Was I Pulled Over?
For almost any traffic stop at night, most police officers will be looking to see if a driver is intoxicated. If an officer sees a driver changing lanes without signaling, weaving in and out of traffic, driving too slow, continually adjusting speed or crossing the center line, they will be much more suspicious.
Preparing the officer for a cordial encounter rather than a rough one will help put both of you at ease. Taking the following steps may help the stop be a short one:
- Gather your driver’s license and proof of insurance – if you have it handy. If you have to dig around for it, the officer may worry that you are searching for a weapon.
- Lower your driver’s side window
- Put both hands on the steering wheel to show the officer you have nothing to hide
- Be polite and calm
When the officer does approach, make sure the officer tells you why you were pulled over. Try to recall your speed prior to speaking with the officer. Remembering these tips will help keep the situation as calm and stress free as possible.
Answering an Officer’s Questions
If the officer suspects that you have been drinking, you may be asked whether you have been drinking or not. Although you do not have to answer these questions, a failure to answer may lead the officer to believe that you have something to hide. You may be asked to perform field sobriety tests.
Even if you decide not to speak with the officer, there are a few questions that you must answer. If asked, you must tell the officer your name, age and whether your driver’s license is valid.
Whether or Not to Take the Breathalyzer Test
What some people wonder is whether they need to take a Breathalyzer test. In New York, breath test refusal will have consequences. Certain consequences will be immediate. For instance, anyone who refuses a Breathalyzer test will automatically lose their license for a year and will have to pay a hefty fine.
There may be consequences for submitting to the test. If you do take the test and your blood alcohol content (BAC) is above the limit, you may need the services of an experienced New York City drunk driving lawyer because the test results will provide the prosecution with a powerful weapon against you.
In New York City, the request to take the test, your decision and any actual testing, including the breathalyzer and sobriety tests, will be videotaped. Be sure to follow all instructions carefully. At all times, remain calm and courteous. The videotape will become important evidence in any criminal case.
Aggravated DWI Offenses
A DWI arrest is never good, but some can be worse than others. If your BAC exceeds 0.18, you could be charged with aggravated DWI. An aggravated DWI charge is more serious and presents fewer options and stiffer penalties for the accused. For most, this means that an attorney will not be able to strike a deal with the prosecution and accept a plea bargain for the lesser offense of driving while ability impaired (DWAI).
The penalties associated with an aggravated DWI charge are also more severe. A person who is convicted of an aggravated DWI charge will lose their license for a minimum of one year and will face fines that start at $1,000.
While the first offense for aggravated DWI is a Class A misdemeanor, a second offense is a felony, which could create serious consequences for a person in the future.
An Experienced New York City DWI Lawyer is Critical
The importance of having a strong advocate cannot be overstated. A New York City criminal defense attorney will not only present an aggressive defense, but will also be attentive to the needs of the client.
If you have been arrested for a DWI, DWAI, or Aggravated DWI, you should speak with an attorney who understands the law and is not afraid to go to bat for you. You should never feel pressured into a quick plea. An experienced New York City attorney will spend the time with you to explain your options.