Recommended Procedures for being Pulled over while Intoxicated

Under no circumstances try and hand your beer to the officer who just pulled you over. As a retired police officer I have had that happen and don’t recommend it. But seriously, intoxicated drivers often give enough evidence to convict themselves and all the officer has to do is present that evidence in court.

By the time the lights come on behind you a video camera has probably been taping you. More than likely everything you say and do will be recorded. The best thing is to be politely quiet. Answer questions honestly but don’t give up the fact that you just left happy hour after having three pitchers of beer in two hours on an empty stomach.

You will be asked for your driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance for the vehicle. If you have these items readily available your uncoordinated actions when trying to obtain them will not be visible to the officer. Try not to confuse your credit card with your driver’s license.

You may be asked to step out of the vehicle to perform field sobriety maneuvers. This varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but mainly consists of a combination of tests-one for memory recall and the other for physical abilities. Whatever you are asked to do you can refuse, but that may not be the answer. Pay attention and take the matter seriously so you do the best you can do. Don’t comment that you could not perform the tests sober, it says immediately that you know you are not sober.

Balance is key while doing field sobriety physical tests. If asked to do a one-leg stand slightly bend the knee of the leg you are standing on and shift your weight to the ball of your foot. This will assist you with balance, sober or intoxicated, but there is no guarantee you will pass. You should have been asked if you have any medical problems, such as bad knees, back or ankles. While not necessarily an automatic exclusion, if you have any such problems say so. Field sobriety is not the time to show off your dance abilities and can get even a serious judge to laugh in court.

A horizontal gaze nystagmus test should be done by the officer, which consists of following a moving object with just your eyes. Follow the directions given as best you can since there is nothing you can do about your eye muscles being impaired.

If a portable field sobriety breath test is requested the choice is yours as to whether or not to blow. There is a difference in a lot of jurisdictions between a portable test and the one required by the State for your driver’s license (or blood test depending on where you live), which will result in a suspension of your driving privilege if you refuse. The time to decide whether or not you will comply with this may be while you are sober as your thinking will be impaired from drinking by the time you are stopped for driving while intoxicated. By the time the final breath or blood test is being offered you will probably be in handcuffs and sitting in the patrol car, but for your sake I hope a sober driver is called for you.