What to do if you are stopped for DUII

Perspective from a Portland DUII lawyer:

Let’s say you meet some friends downtown after a long week of hard work. You catch up, and have 2 beers over the course of your time together. On your drive home, you signal 75 feet before making a lane change — the law requires a continuous signal for at least 100 feet. An officer who has been following you turns on overhead lights.

“The reason I pulled you over is for not signalling at least 100 feet before your lane change. License, registration and insurance, please. I can smell some alcohol, how much have you had to drink tonight?”

The best answer would be, “My lawyer tells me to never answer that question.” By using the word “lawyer,” you’ve made it clear you’re not interested in incriminating yourself. The officer is sworn to uphold the law, and is supposed to stop asking questions of anyone who invokes their right to a lawyer. However, that likely won’t happen, and the questions will continue.

*If you admit to drinking any alcohol, the officer will later call it “the admission of drinking” and use it to hurt you. This does not mean you should lie! Just invoke your right to counsel, or silence. Or both.

“Well, I’m just trying to keep the streets safe tonight. Where are you coming from?”

“You know, my lawyer tells me not to answer any questions, I’m sorry.” Don’t SAY you know your rights, SHOW you know your rights.

Now the officer is stuck. You’ve made it clear that you are not a source of evidence against yourself, and he has to decide if he has seen enough to justify arresting you for a crime. If he hasn’t, he’ll send you on your way. If he has, he’ll arrest you. There will also be a request for field sobriety testing, but the Constitution says we’re not required to reveal our thoughts, beliefs, or state of mind — so consider that. If you respectfully decline, the officer will tell you he might use it against you at a later hearing. If you’re arrested, don’t freak out — the officer made that decision a long time ago. Now you’ve got to figure out what to do about the breath test.

For most people looking at a first-time DUII arrest, it’s a good idea to blow. First, you might blow well under the legal limit. Second, even if you blow over the limit, the license suspension penalties are much gentler for a failed breath test, rather than a refusal. Third, as a Portland DUII lawyer, I see more officers getting warrants for blood draws if a driver refuses. Nobody wants a cop, or cop-friendly paramedic, sticking a needle in their arm. In any event, if you have any doubts, ask the officer to let you call a lawyer in privacy before making the breath test decision. They’re supposed to give you at least 15 minutes to do this.

If you blow under the legal limit, great! But keep your mouth shut. Some officers can’t believe they got it wrong, and will call in another officer to consider whether you are under the influence of drugs. They do this primarily by asking you, “What drugs have you taken?” Remember, we have a Bill of Rights that says we don’t have to answer police questions. “I invoke my right to silence and counsel” works, as does, “I don’t answer questions. I want my lawyer here during any questions.” As a practical matter, this cuts-off (and is intended to cut-off) all police questioning.

If you blow over the legal limit, keep your cool. Continue not making any statements (silence is not ever supposed to be used against you). Call a good Portland DUI lawyer the next morning! Important timelines come up very quickly.

You might ask why you would call a Portland DUII lawyer instead of someone local to your community. By all means, if there’s a good DUII lawyer in your town, go with that person. However, we’re becoming a bit of a rare breed in parts of Oregon. If you can’t find a DUII attorney to help you, consider calling someone in Portland. Because we live and work in an area with a lot of people, and a lot of police agencies, it means we deal with a lot of DUII arrests — and incredibly well-trained, experienced, battle-hardened officers. Sometimes your local doctor can handle all your needs, but sometimes you want a specialist — who handles nothing but your kind of problem. Like doctors, lawyers tend to specialize if we can — and we can in a high-density area. Call the best DUII lawyer you can find.

Note: DUI and DUII and DWI are acronyms that describe various state crimes — in Oregon, it’s DUII (Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants). Remember that it is NOT illegal to drive after having consumed intoxicants — like beer, or marijuana / cannabis / THC, or prescription medication — but it is illegal if your mental or physical faculties are adversely affected to a noticeable or perceptible degree because of the alcohol, or drug. For example, most of us take a mood-altering drug every morning before we drive — coffee, with caffeine, a stimulant. None of us are “under the influence” of that coffee, although we’re all “affected” by it — we’re just not “adversely affected” by it. I drive better after a cup of coffee than I would without it. Similarly, studies have shown that small amounts of various drugs have little to no effect on driving (in fact, two studies showed single doses of alcohol led to performance gains in motorcyclists on a closed track!). So, like much in life, it comes down to moderation. It’s not illegal to drink and drive — it is if you’ve had too much. Be careful out there, and get a good Portland DUII lawyer on your side!