So you made a decision to drive while drunk. It’s illegal and dangerous. You know better, but you did it anyway.  Maybe you didn’t want to leave your vehicle where it was parked. Maybe you didn’t want to wait on or pay for a cab or Uber. Maybe you just didn’t think you were drunk.  So against your better judgement, you got in your car, started the engine, and drove away.

It’s a terrible idea.  You risk harming yourself and others.  Or, you will get caught before that happens.

Here are the seven things that happen during a DUI arrest – with advice on how to handle it.  Obviously the best advice of all: DON’T DRIVE DRUNK.

The Traffic Stop

On the way home, you roll through that right turn on red without stopping. Maybe you were driving a little above the speed limit.  Perhaps you swerved across a lane while distracted with something. The alcohol in your system is causing you to be reckless and use poor judgement.  Your motor skills are impaired.  A police officer notices, and suddenly you have flashing lights in your rear view.

Or maybe you got caught up in a sobriety checkpoint.

The Questioning

Upon asking for your license and registration, the officer notices the odor of alcohol or other signs of intoxication, such as bloodshot eyes, slurring speech, being unable to answer basic questions.

Some things to remember:

You do not have to roll down your window more than enough to be able to speak to the officer and hand over your license and registration.

You do not have to answer any questions, and are only required to hand over your license and registration.

Nevertheless, the officer is asking you if you’ve had anything to drink, where you’ve been, where you are headed.  Attorneys will advise you not to answer these questions, but many times people do anyway, and such answers are incriminating.  Many of us who have never been in legal trouble before and otherwise respect police officers feel guilty and see it as lying.  Well, it’s not.  You do not have to answer, and if you admit that you have “only had a drink or two” that is enough probable cause for the officer to have you step out of your vehicle and continue on with field tests.

The Field Tests

You are asked to step out of the vehicle and perform basic field sobriety tests; again, you do not have to comply.  But the officer is asking you to follow the head of a pen while he shines a bright flashlight in your eyes. He’s asking you to stand on one foot.  He asks you to walk forward and backwards in a straight line.

Even though you do not have to comply, many people feel that if they just do these tests successfully, they’ll be released.  Unfortunately, for most people, it’s already too late.  They’ve already aroused probably cause by admitting to having “a drink or two” and possibly smelling of alcohol.  Any slight failure of these tests are just added to the case against you.

After the basic tests, you are asked to complete a field breathalyzer test; again, you do not have to comply. But you figure if you get it over with, maybe, just maybe it will show that you are below the legal limit.

In my case, it was pouring rain, I was shivering and I did not understand the officer’s instructions.  I blew three times, and each time, came up with inconclusive results.  The officer took this as a refusal, and arrested me based on his perception of my answers and the other tests.

The Arrest

The officer decides, that based on your appearance, smell and/or performance of the tests, that you are intoxicated. You are read your rights and handcuffed, and taken to the police station or jail.

Your information is taken down, and you are questioned. Again, you do not have to answer any questions except those pertaining to your identity.  You are again asked how much you had to drink and where you were when you drank.  The officer takes meticulous notes when filling out the arrest warrant and his own logs.

Finally, you are asked to take the official breathalyzer test. This is the one that counts.  If you refuse this one, you are charged with refusal to submit to a breath test, and you lose your license until your court date.  If this test comes back above the legal limit, you are officially charged with a DUI.  If you end up above a 0.08 on this test, you are handed an official copy of your BAC report, and you are taken before the magistrate.

The Booking

The officer reads the charges against you, and the magistrate determines your bond and how long you will be held.  In most first time DWI cases that do not involve an accident and where there is no significant prior record, the time is “overnight until sober” and the bond is waived for personal recognizance.  This means you are trusted to walk free once you have sobered up, and show up for all court appearances.

You are turned over to the jail. You are fingerprinted, photographed, all your possessions are removed and inventoried, including any outerwear, your belt and shoelaces.

Jail For the Night

You go to the “drunk tank” which is a holding cell. It could be just you, it could be up to five other people.  It’s a plain white cell, with concrete benches, a bright light that doesn’t turn off and one toilet/sink/water fountain.  You are given two standard issue, itchy blankets and that’s it.  Since you are slated to be released by morning, you get to keep the main clothes you were wearing and do not get a jumpsuit.

RELATED: 10 Tips on Surviving Jail

The Release on Personal Recognizance

Mid-morning, you are released.  You get your possessions back, and then are sent on your way with the following forms:

  • Uniform Summons – this is your traffic ticket that states your court dates, both arraignment and trial.
  • BAC report
  • Arrest warrant
  • Notice of administrative license suspension

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RELATED: The meaning of your administrative license suspension.

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