You didn't think that there was anything wrong with the way that you were operating your vehicle, but the police cruiser has pulled you over. And now the officer is asking you if you've had anything to drink this evening. Should you say yes? What happens if you choose to say nothing at all? And either way, how will this evening now end? What happens when one is pulled over for suspected driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI)?
Laws now exist around the world to address driving while intoxicated. While "driving" generally refers to operating a motor vehicle, in the United States, DUI laws have been expanded to cover farm equipment, planes, boats, and other watercraft, and even horse-drawn carriages. Even more confusing, DUI laws vary by state.
A conveyance or piece of equipment being used by an operator that is inebriated is a serious matter. There's no denying that the implementation of these laws have saved many lives, including those of drivers. But DUI pullovers have also led to misinterpretations of laws, faultily administered tests, and wrongful convictions. That's why it is very important that a driver pulled over and charged with a DUI contact an attorney. But in the immediate aftermath of being stopped, how should a driver behave? By law (because what you say can be held against you in court), you don't have to speak to the officer. You do have to comply with other basic requests such as producing driver's identification and registration, and exiting the vehicle if requested.
In Virginia, police determine a driver's blood alcohol level (known as a BAC) by using what's known as a "Breathalyzer" test right at the pullover site. Legally, a driver can refuse to take this test, but this generally not recommended, as such a choice implies an admission of guilt in court. A driver can still be arrested for suspected DUI even without submitting to a BAC test, and it's even possible in Virginia to be completely sober, and still be charged with a alcohol or drug related offense. Under such circumstances, if a driver is operating a conveyance with an open container of alcohol in it, has given alcohol to an underaged person, possessed alcohol or drugs on school property, or lied about their age to law enforcement officials, they can be arrested and charged with offences similar to those of a DUI.
Unless the reason for a pullover was serious bodily or property injury or death (which necessitates other charges being filed), Virginia has four levels of DUI offences, with increasing amounts of penalties concerning loss of driving privileges, fines, mandatory safety classes, and more. What many Virginia drivers don't realize is that with an attorney's help, first time offenses can be reduced to traffic violations, saving them much time and expense.
The best "avoiding a DUI stop" advice any lawyer could give you? Never drive after drinking! But if facing DUI charges for any reason, don't hesitate to contact a lawyer to insure expert representation in court.