The holidays often bring out the best and the worst in people. It’s a season for celebrating, giving, receiving and spending time with the people you love most and sometimes, you just need a drink or two to handle all that togetherness. While drinking may be a great way to celebrate or cope, it can create the circumstances for legal and criminal trouble, especially if you’re an occasional drinker or things get out of hand.
A first-time drunk driving traffic stop is scary for most drivers, and making mistakes during an investigation or interrogation can escalate the situation. Below are a few common ideas and misconceptions about drunk driving arrests for first-time DUI offenders:
- I can beat the breathalyzer – When an officer pulls you over for suspected drunk driving, he may ask you to submit to chemical testing. A breathalyzer, blood or urine sample can measure the level of alcohol in your body, and this information can be used to charge you with drunk driving. If you refuse, you may face immediate arrest and the officer can explain what he observed that led him to believe you were intoxicated — watery eyes, slurred speech, erratic driving, the smell of alcohol, etc.
- I refused the breathalyzer and the field sobriety tests. What now? If you refuse to submit to a field sobriety test, that refusal can be used as evidence against you. If you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test, you may be charged with refusal immediately, and the conviction for a refusal carries the same penalties as drunk driving. However, without the physical evidence from these tests, the officer can only use what he or she observes at the scene, so this sometimes works in the drivers’ favor. You should be aware, however, that it is extremely difficult to win a refusal charge and refusal can result in both a conviction for drunk driving AND a conviction for refusal.
- Shouldn’t I be read my rights? If you were arrested or taken into police custody, you should have been read your Miranda Rights. Without these, any evidence collected against you or from you could be called into question at your trial. If you haven’t been read your rights, take note of every question the officers ask you in their interrogations.
- I only had a few drinks. Why am I being charged? The quantity of drinks you’ve consumed doesn’t really matter when it comes to intoxication and driving. If you’ve only had a few beers, but an officer observes you driving poorly or erratically, or stops you for a different infraction and smells alcohol on you, this could trigger a DUI/DWI stop. What counts against you is your blood alcohol content and your ability to safely drive.
Obviously, you should never drink and drive. But with the holidays at hand, it’s important to know the law and how a drunk driving charge is handled, just in case you end up getting stopped by the police.
At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, we represent anyone who has been charged with drunk or drugged driving. For more information on how to fight a first-offense DUI/DWI charge, contact a New Jersey DWI lawyer at our firm today. We’ll provide a free, no-strings consultation into your case and discuss the options available to you for your defense.