What happens if you are the subject of a DWI arrest or a suspicion of a DWI?
A DWI arrest is probably the most damaging event in the immigrant community, because a DWI arrest both carries potentially catastrophic immigration consequences and is relatively common compared to other crimes and offenses that carry similarly harsh immigration penalties. For non-immigrants, too, a DWI arrest is statistically the likeliest serious crime, aside from domestic violence, that a person and their family is likely to experience.
For this reason – as part of our ongoing series of FAQ and guide articles – we are providing here an FAQ guide the DWI arrest. What happens during the “stop”? What happens once suspicion of a DWI is established by the arresting officer? What happens at the police station after a DWI arrest? What should you say to the arresting officer? What’s the best advice to follow?
Accompanying video on DWI Arrest Procedure (bilingual):
This post goes along with our live show video from Un Lugar Live, brought to you in English and Spanish. This features Bull City Lawyer partner, Maryam Al-Zoubi, Advocacy Director, Ivan Almonte, and Partner Damjan Denoble (albeit in a production support capacity).
The DWI Arrest FAQ:
The officer usually pulls the motorist over because of signs of impairment (such as swerving) or a traffic violation (even something minor like a broken taillight will suffice). Generally, a stop is legal so long as police had reasonable suspicion that the driver violated a traffic law.
1.) A driver gets pulled over.
2.) The officer walks up to the car and talks to the driver.
3.) The officer asks for license and other vehicle information.
4.) At this point the officer may smell an odor of alcohol, detect slurred speech, or see bloodshot watery eyes. They will ask the driver if he has been drinking. Regardless of the answer, the officer will ask the driver to exit the vehicle.
5.) The officer may ask the driver again if they had anything to drink. The officer may start asking more detailed questions about the drinking. Examples include: when was your last one, how much exactly did you drink, what did you drink. Keep in mind: the officer is documenting everything the driver says. If the driver was slow to exit, or fumbled for the rights words because they are nervous. This will all be used against you.
6.) The officer will ask the driver if they want to do some “voluntary” field sobriety tests. Usually it sounds like:
7.) The first test done is usually the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, followed by the walk and turn test, then the one leg stand test. If the officer has a portable breath test then that will be last.
8.) Even if you scored perfectly, the officer may arrest you and take you to the station to take a breath or blood test.
1.) Stay in the car
If you leave the car to try and talk to the officer or to – and please don’t do this – run away, you can turn a DWI charge into something much worse.
2.) Keep your hands on the wheel
The DWI arrest process can be a dangerous one for police officers, who face dangers dealing with intoxicated drivers. They are on high alert if they suspect you are driving under the influence. Keep your hands on the wheel to demonstrate to the officer you are not a threat.
3.) Calmly wait for the police officer to approach your motor vehicle
Fidgeting or losing your cool at this point can be used against you, and if you are not calm you can potentially complicate your situation.
4.) Do not attempt to leave your care and do not shuffle around in the glove compartment looking for credentials
Instead, wait to get out your credentials. The officer will instruct you to do so, and you should do it then.
All 50 states have “implied consent” laws that require motorists lawfully arrested for DUI to submit to chemical testing done through breath or blood test. The purpose of the testing is to measure the amount of drugs or alcohol in the driver’s system.
You can refuse but you will face consequences that can include: a mandatory suspended license, fines, or having to install a device on your car that tests your breath.
We cannot give you legal advice but we can tell you what your rights are.
1.) You have the right to invoke the Fifth Amendment, which means you have the right to refrain from answering any and all questions that the police officer asks you.
2.) Do not think that answering questions and admitting to drinking will help you. But do not lie!!
3.) You have the right to refuse to do any field sobriety tests.
4.) Keep in mind that not answering questions and refusing to do the tests does not mean you will not be arrested. It just means they have less information to use against you in court.
The most important advice:
Do not drink and drive!
You risking causing an accident and killing yourself and others. Do not take that risk!
You are opening yourself up to thousands of dollars in fines and lawyer fees. That is much more than the cost of taking a taxi home!
You are risking going to jail and having a criminal record
We cannot say this enough- you are risking hurting yourself and others. Life is precious. Do not risk taking away life.