It is never fun to be stopped by the police, but it is particularly disturbing if they suspect that you are under the influence. DUI charges can have life-altering consequences, and the decisions you make when you are stopped can determine whether you are charged with DUI and whether you win or lose your case if you are charged. It is impossible to give advice that covers every situation, but the following outline will give you some idea of what to expect if you are stopped for suspicion of DUI in Kentucky.
The Initial Stop for Suspicion of DUI
Almost every time an officer stops a car he will ask the driver for their license, registration, and proof of insurance. Being able to locate these documents quickly and easily is very important. If you are pulled over, be calm, courteous, and polite. Many police cars have in-dash recording equipment, and the video of a stop is often the most powerful evidence of a person's guilt or innocence. Being loud or combative with police officers is often seen as a sign that the driver is under the influence. The officer may also ask you about alcohol and drug use. What you say during the stop can be used against you if you are charged with DUI.
Field Sobriety Tests
If an officer suspects that you are driving under the influence, he will probably ask you to take a number of tests on the side of the road. These tests, called "field sobriety tests," are designed to test your ability to perform tasks which require divided attention. They include balancing while counting and walking a straight line. You will generally not have an opportunity to speak to a lawyer before taking these tests. Refusing to take them may guarantee you a trip to jail, but taking the tests also carries risks - the officer may still take you to jail, and your performance on the tests will be used as evidence against you. If you take the tests, it is crucial to listen to the officer's instructions carefully and ensure that you understand the instructions before you begin the test.
Portable Breath Tests
Portable Breath Tests ("PBTs") are handheld breathalyzers. An officer who suspects you of DUI may ask you to blow into one while you are in your vehicle or on the side of the road. The results of a PBT may be used by an officer to justify your arrest, but in Kentucky the results generally cannot be used to prove that a person is DUI. As with Field Sobriety Tests, refusing a PBT may guarantee you a trip to jail. It is usually best to agree to take the PBT, because you may avoid being arrested if the result is low and the result cannot be used against you in court if it is high.
Blood, Breath, and Urine Tests
The most important decision that you make if you are arrested for DUI is whether to take the blood, breath, or urine test(s) that will be requested either at the jail or at a hospital. Before asking you to take one of these tests, Kentucky law enforcement officers are required to give you an opportunity to contact an attorney. They will tell you that you have 10 - 15 minutes to attempt to contact an attorney, and then ask if you wish to do so. It is crucial that you try to contact an attorney. Some law offices, including Edwards and Kautz, take calls 24 hours a day, so you should call even if it is late at night or early in the morning. The officer will likely hear the things you say to the attorney. It is important to listen to the attorney and try to answer his questions without revealing to the officer any incriminating information. Skilled attorneys will ask you questions in such a way that very little is revealed to the officer. Ultimately it will be your decision whether to take or refuse to take these tests. An attorney can advise you of some of the consequences for refusing testing.
What Happens Next
If you are charged with DUI, you will probably be spending the night in jail. At some point a judge will set a bond and you will be able to get out of jail. In some places you may be asked to plead guilty or not guilty prior to the bond being set. Whether you believe you were under the influence or not, you may have legal issues that can help you avoid a conviction. Do not plead guilty unless and until you have spoken at length to an experienced and knowledgeable DUI attorney. You should retain an attorney as soon as possible. Be aware that not all lawyers handle DUI cases, and some lawyers handle very few DUI cases. Lawyers who handle lots of DUI cases will tell you so, and should have no difficulty answering questions about DUI law or discussing potential legal issues in your case.