What Happens When Someone Is Arrested for Drunk Driving?
In this article
- Finding a Drunk Driving Attorney
- Can I Refuse to Take a Field Sobriety Test if I Have Been Pulled Over on Suspicion of Drunk Driving?
- Penalties for a First-Time DUI
- What Are the Penalties for a Drunk Driving Conviction if Another Person Is Injured or Killed?
- Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer to Defend Me in a Drunk Driving Case?
After being arrested on charges of drunk driving, it is likely that you'll be searched by the police, your car will get towed, and you'll be sent to the police station for "booking." In some cases, you may be able to get out of jail within a few hours of your arrest by posting conditional bail or being released "on your own recognizance." If you are not released, then you may ask the judge to release you at your first court hearing.
When you are allowed to use the phone in jail, you should immediately call a drunk driving attorney or get a friend or family member to help you find one. The drunk driving attorney can help you get released as soon as possible. After the arrest, you'll not only have to deal with criminal penalties, but also the administrative penalty of having your driver's license suspended. Your criminal defense lawyer can also guide you through the court process and assist you with any DMV hearings to attempt to keep your driving privileges.
Can I Refuse to Take a Field Sobriety Test if I Have Been Pulled Over on Suspicion of Drunk Driving?
When the police officer makes a traffic stop and suspects that you may be impaired, they may ask you to submit to field sobriety tests and a breath test. The standardized field sobriety tests are supposed to look for signs the driver is under the influence of alcohol and unable to safely operate a motor vehicle. Field sobriety testing may include:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test
- One-leg-stand test
- Walk-and-turn test
A breath test device gives a preliminary blood alcohol content (BAC) estimate, to determine if you may be over the legal limit. The results of the Breathalyzer and field sobriety tests will be recorded in the police report and can be used to give law enforcement the probable cause to make an arrest.
In most states, you have the right to refuse field sobriety tests and a roadside Breathalyzer. Refusing these tests cannot be held against you, even if the police make it seem like you should give in. These tests can be inaccurate. Law enforcement officers can still make an arrest with or without field testing. However, in some states, under-21 drivers or drivers on probation may be required to give a breath test during a traffic stop.
Under state "implied consent" laws, drivers have given their consent to give a breath sample or blood sample for chemical testing if they are arrested on suspicion of drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs. These tests are generally conducted at the police station, where a driver has to give a breath or blood sample to test the driver's blood alcohol content. This test evidence can be used against you in court.
If you refuse to give a breath or blood sample after your arrest, you may face penalties, including an automatic license suspension for a year, even if you are sober. The prosecutor can use your refusal against you in court and you can still be convicted, even without submitting to the test.
Each state treats drunk driving a little differently, with different penalties, even for a first-offender. In most cases, a non-injury drunk driving conviction could result in:
- A minimum number of days in jail
- Fines and court fees
- An ignition interlock device (IID)
- A restricted license
- A suspended license
- Attending an alcohol treatment program
In many states, the criminal charges for a serious injury DUI or fatal drunk driving accident are elevated to felony drunk driving offenses. As a felony, a conviction carries harsher penalties, which could include months in jail or years in prison. If a person is killed during the incident, you could be charged with felony vehicular manslaughter, which could mean a life sentence in prison.
If you are convicted of drunk driving in any state, you face serious fines and penalties, including driver's license suspension, probation, and even incarceration. Experienced attorneys can explain your legal options and explore the best legal defenses. With so many penalties at stake, you should consider hiring an experienced drunk driving defense attorney who is skilled in handling cases like these in your area.