The holidays are a time for friends & family to come together and celebrate. Whether it’s the office party or dinner at grandma’s, getting together often means drinking.
It’s no surprise that more traffic accidents and alcohol-related highway deaths occur during these periods than other time during the year.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the average number of fatalities increases by 25% during the holiday season.
Many law enforcement agencies, in an effort to prevent property loss and the loss of life, increase their efforts around the holiday season to get intoxicated drivers off the roads and into the jails. Such efforts include increased officers on the road as well as the highly publicized “No Refusal” periods.
So, how do you avoid getting pulled over?
Simple. Don’t drink and drive. Plan ahead. If you think you will be drinking, have “sober-responsible-you” anticipate the needs of “too-many-drinks-you.”
In the age of Uber and Lyft, there really is no excuse to ‘risk it’. Easy to download and use, Uber and Lyft apps make summoning a sober ride convenient and exponentially cheaper than the alternative.
Depending on how far you are going, an Uber or Lyft ride will generally cost under $50.00. For a DWI, legal fees alone can cost you more than $10,000.00.
Of course it could cost you, or a fellow holiday traveler, a lot more. Spare yourself the hassle of the looming legal headache and plan for “happy holidays you” in a responsible way.
So, what do you do if you are stopped?
1. Be prepared. You must show your driver’s license, proof of insurance card and vehicle registration. Make sure you know where they are beforehand. Fumbling to find these essential documents can give the appearance of impairment and will be used against you.
2. Be responsive. If you get signaled to pull over, do so immediately and safely. Roll down your window, keep your hands on the steering wheel, and stay in your vehicle unless instructed to get out. Unnecessary movement causes concern for officer safety and raises suspicion of an attempt to hide illegal contraband. Further, refrain from taking actions, such as lighting up a smoke or frantically chewing gum, that will raise an officer suspicion that you are trying to cover up a smell.
3. Be polite, but play dumb. Remember you do not have to come up with an answer if an officer asks you if you know why you got pulled over. Responding with a polite “I don’t know” is acceptable.
4. Be polite, but keep your mouth shut. If an officer asks you “Have you had anything to drink tonight?” remember that you are not required to speak beyond identifying yourself. Refusing to answer such a question may annoy the officer, but you do not need to help him make his case. The police have to follow strict procedures when making an arrest. The officer needs probable cause and he needs to be able to justify it to a judge. Most people who are pulled over and have alcohol on their breath get arrested. It’s just a fact of life. There is no reason to verbally confirm any suspicions and such admissions can be used against you later.
5. Be cooperative, but not too cooperative. If you are pulled over on suspicion of drinking, an officer may ask you to agree to a series of field sobriety tests. Don’t do it. Politely respond that you do not wish to perform such tests. Again, this response may agitate the officer, but you are not required to engage in field sobriety tests. Stay polite but firm in your refusal. It’s your right, and he knows it. Same thing goes for field breathalyzer tests. You are not required to take such a test.
6. Be aware that you are likely being recorded. In this age of technology, it is prudent to assume that each and every one of your actions and statements are being recorded if you get pulled over. Think before you speak and think before you act. If a Judge or jury was watching video of this exchange would I want them to see/hear what I am about to do/say? Consider this carefully as few things are more persuasive to Court than a video recording of someone behaving badly.
“No refusal” – what it really means
Do not be confused by the signs announcing “no refusal” weekends arounds the holidays. “No refusal” does not really mean you cannot refuse. Instead, it means that if you refuse a blood draw or test, the police must secure a warrant. Once the warrant is secure then such tests can be performed over your objections. However, to a get a warrant, the officer will have to wake up a judge, take you to a hospital, serve the warrant, and then draw your blood … all the while you are sobering up.
Apart from a properly secured and served warrant, the only time “no refusal” truly means you are subject to a mandatory blood test is when (a) someone died or will die; (b) someone has suffered serious bodily injury; or (c) someone has suffered bodily injury and been transported to a hospital.
Some Final Thoughts
If you are arrested for DWI, get an experienced attorney immediately. You have a very limited timeline to work with if you do not want to lose your driver’s license.
Happy Holidays and Stay Safe!
 Please remember to drink responsibly.