Civil, Criminal, and Family Law
Have you ever wondered what really happens when the police stop someone for driving under the influence? I get asked that question a lot so here is the answer from someone who has actually been there, made the stop and arrested the driver.
Prior to becoming a criminal defense attorney, I was a police officer at the Miami-Dade Police Department. I was also a DUI instructor and won a M.A.D.D. award for DUI enforcement.
I've made hundreds of DUI arrests as well as other traffic arrests.. Usually DUI stops are conducted at night, Friday and Saturday nights are most common as that is when people are generally out for an evening, but it can be any night. Once a car is selected for a stop, the officer will follow the driver for a time to note the driving pattern, weaving, violating traffic control devices such as redlights and the sort. The officer will also run the tag. Officers have computers in their cars that allow them to run the car and driver through the local criminal justice system, F.C.I.C., N.C.I.C and the D.A.V.I.D. system. The officer will usually know the status of the car, the registered owner, the owners driver's license status and if there are any warrants for the driver. The officer will also be able to access driver's license record with the D.M.V. photographs.
The officer will look for a safe place to stop the car before activating his red and blue lights. Once the officer decides he or she is in a generally acceptable area to conduct a traffic stop he will signal the car to stop by turning on the red and blue lights. If the car does not stop in a timely manner, the officer may use a siren or horn blast to get the driver's attention.
The Officer will pay particular attention to the actions of the driver when the signal to stop is initiated.
Actions such as did the car stop safely, does the driver maintain proper control of the car and what was the driving pattern during the stop will all be noted as evidence in the case should an arrest occur. Once the car is stopped, the officer will either walk up to the driver or order the driver to step out of the car and initiate contact with the driver.
When the officer meets the driver, the officer will be looking for signs of impairment, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and odor of an alcoholic beverage are the main indicators. The Officer will ask the driver for a driver's license, registration and insurance and will be watching as the driver retrieves the documents. The officer is looking for the driver to fumble around in a wallet, glove box or center console for the documents and will note any difficulty the driver has in locating them. The officer will engage the driver in what appears to be general conversation such as why the car was stopped, did you see that red light and so forth, all the while gathering evidence. This will be documented, as the driver had no idea why I stopped him, driver never saw the red light and so forth.
The officer is looking for the driver to fumble around in a wallet, glove box or center console for the documents and will note any difficulty the driver has in locating them. The officer will engage the driver in what appears to be general conversation such as why the car was stopped, did you see that red light and so forth, all the while gathering evidence. This will be documented, as the driver had no idea why I stopped him, driver never saw the red light and so forth.
EVERYTHING an officer does at a traffic stop is geared toward gathering evidence against you if you are eventually arrested for DUI.
At this point, the officer has to decide, if he hasn't already, to ask the driver to perform a series of exercises or test commonly termed standardized field sobriety tests or S.F.S.T.'s. The tests will usually include the horizontal gaze, walk and turn and one leg stand. In Florida these are the approved tests but the officer can use others in addition to these. These tests are voluntary in Florida. The sole purpose of these tests is to gather evidence of your impairment.
After the tests or exercises, the officer will make a decision to arrest the driver or not. Guess what the usual result is?
Yep, you're going to the county jail.
You'll be handcuffed and seated in the police car while the officer arranges for your vehicle to be towed. You'll be transported to a DUI processing facility, usually a police station, for a breath test. At this point, the officer is still going to be gathering evidence against you and will be looking for you to give it to him. The officer will note what you say, how you react and what you do. Some police cars have cameras and recording equipment in them so beware of talking to yourself or anyone else.
At the DUI processing facility the Officer will read you a statement called implied consent and ask you to take a breath test, if your in Florida.
Keep in mind that EVERYTHING the officer does is geared toward gathering evidence against you.
The breath test results will be used against you if it shows you have alcohol in your system. In Florida, it is a separate crime if you refuse to provide a sample upon the request of a law enforcement officer. You're in a predicament here! If you refuse to provide a breath sample the officer will probably charge you with another misdemeanor, if you do provide a breath sample it will be used against you. If you decide to provide the breath sample the officer will instruct you to blow into an intoxelyzer and collect the sample to be used against you. If you refuse, the officer will move directly to the next step, the driver interview.
During the driver interview, the officer will read you your rights for the first time.
Why is this the first time you're being read your rights? The Courts have determined that up until this point your rights are not applicable. This is also the first time the officer will be asking you to actually hang yourself, and plenty of people follow right along. After reading you your rights the officer will ask you to sign a rights waiver form and he'll proceed to ask you incriminating questions. If you refuse, or invoke your rights, the officer will not ask you any incriminating questions.
When the interview is concluded, you're done, not go home done but go to the county jail done.
You'll either be transported directly to the county jail or you'll be held at the station until there is a transport van to the county jail.
What is the most important this to learn from all this, besides don't drink and drive?
EVERYTHING a police officer does is geared toward gathering evidence against you!
If you've been arrested for DUI, any traffic or criminal offense, please contact me to discuss your case and the best way I can fight for you!
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