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How to React to a DUI Traffic Stop It is never an enjoyable experience to look in your rearview mirror and see the flashing lights of a law enforcement officer behind your vehicle. The experience is markedly less enjoyable if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Still, when it comes to DUI cases, your actions during the traffic stop can make all the difference in whether you are ultimately convicted or not. With that in mind, it is important to understand how to react to a DUI traffic stop. 

Safety First

When you see police lights behind your vehicle, you are instructed to pull over to the right shoulder of the lane as soon as possible. Unfortunately, things are not always that simple. It is important to avoid pulling your vehicle over on bridges, sharp turns in the roadway, up against guard rails with limited shoulder space, or in any location where it may be possible to be struck by passing traffic. As the officer approaches the vehicle, remain calm and keep your hands on the wheel. Any sudden movement (such as exiting the vehicle) could be viewed as an act of aggression. Willingness to adhere to the safety principles of a traffic stop will not only decrease any chance of injury but also showcase your ability to cognitively react to the situation, potentially helping your case. 

Understand Your Rights

Once the law enforcement officer begins speaking with you, it is important to maintain a balance between cooperation and exercising your rights. If the acting officer believes there is probable cause that you may be intoxicated, they are mandated to request chemical testing. The officer will likely tell you that refusing to take part in the test will result in a loss of driving privileges, but refusal may, in fact, be your best option. A DUI conviction is at the bare minimum a Class A misdemeanor and will result in significant fines. While refusing to take part in chemical testing will result in a license revocation of one year, it is not a criminal offense and thus will not show up on your permanent record. Recognizing your rights in a DUI traffic stop can be paramount to avoiding a criminal conviction. 

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Understanding Your Options At a DUI CheckpointAccording to the Illinois Secretary of State’s Department, upwards of 27,000 people were arrested statewide on DUI charges throughout 2017. The incredible number of arrests is largely related to increased efforts by law enforcement to apprehend inebriated drivers. One of the most notable steps the state has taken is to implement a high number of DUI checkpoints. When one approaches a DUI checkpoint, it is entirely common to feel like they have no options but to pull up to the checkpoint and adhere to the officer’s wishes. In reality, there are a number of choices you can make to avoid being charged with driving under the influence. If a drinking and driving charge does ultimately occur, seek out quality legal representation immediately. 

Recognizing Your Rights at a Checkpoint

DUI checkpoints have always been highly controversial. In any other traffic stop situation, a police officer has to have reasonable suspicion for stopping a vehicle. In other words, a driver must be violating the law in some capacity to warrant a traffic stop. In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that DUI checkpoints do not require probable cause because the breach in privacy is ultimately geared towards increasing driver safety. Because of this, many people are unaware that they have options as they approach a DUI checkpoint:

  1. You Can Turn Around: When people see a DUI checkpoint, they assume that they will be stuck going through the checkpoint. If for whatever reason you do not want to take part in the checkpoint, you are legally allowed to turn around and avoid the checkpoint altogether. As long as the turn is executed in an entirely legal fashion, the police would have no reasonable suspicion for pulling you over. If they do apprehend you after your execution of a legal turn around, your lawyer could argue that you were unlawfully seized. 
  2. You Can Refuse Testing: At a DUI checkpoint, it is common for law enforcement officials to intimidate drivers into adhering to their wishes. If an officer asks that you take part in chemical or field sobriety testing, it is important to understand that you can refuse to participate in the tests. An officer may tell you that refusing a DUI test is illegal, but they would be either incorrect or strategically lying. Refusing to take part in chemical testing is an administrative offense, not a criminal offense. This means that the person refusing the test may face some consequences, such as temporary loss of driving privileges. This is different from having a blemish placed on their permanent record or being charged with a crime. 
  3. You Can Refuse to Answer Questions: When an officer begins to ask you questions, it can be difficult to avoid answering them. Most of us were taught to obey law enforcement and cooperate. In reality, answering questions regarding your drinking can be the first step towards giving them the right to ask for testing and ultimately charge you with a DUI. If an officer asks if you have been drinking, you are better off telling the officer “I would rather not say” than admitting to drinking or lying about it. Even if you have only consumed two drinks throughout the night, those drinks could add up to more than the legal limit of 0.08 blood alcohol content. You could hurt your credibility if you are proven to have lied to the officer about drinking. While it is always important to be respectful, it is equally important to understand your rights. 

Contact an Oak Brook DUI Defense Lawyer  

After a DUI charge, it is important to act quickly. At McMahon Law Offices, we will examine the proceedings behind the traffic stop to see if the officer acted negligently in any manner. In many cases, officers commit errors at DUI checkpoints that could warrant a case being thrown out in court. A DUI conviction can impact your ability to drive, secure employment, and pay your bills. Fortunately, we are dedicated to doing whatever we can to help you avoid a conviction. To schedule a complimentary consultation with a skilled DuPage County criminal defense attorney, call us today at 630-953-4400. 

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