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What To Do if You are Pulled Over for DUI in San Francisco or Anywhere In California

Larkspur DUI Arrest Attorney

Drunk Driving Defense Lawyer Serving San Rafael and the Bay Area

California DUI penalties are among the harshest in the nation. A drunk driving conviction can mean heavy fines, jail time, and numerous other consequences. How you deal with the police when you are pulled over is a major determining factor in how successful you will be in challenging the charges against you. For this reason, it is very important to understand what to do if you are pulled over for DUI in California.

Understanding State Laws

California DUI laws contain two main sections that deal with standard adult DUIs:

  • CA Vehicle Code 23152(a): You can be charged under this section because of the way you are driving, even if you are under the legal limit. For example, you could be driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .05, but if you are driving recklessly, you could be charged under section 23152(a).
  • CA Vehicle Code 23152(b): Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08 or above. Under this section, it does not matter how well or poorly you are driving, only that you are over the legal limit.

California also has an "implied consent" law, meaning that when you apply for a driver's license, you are consenting to a chemical test at the police station if you are lawfully arrested for DUI, and refusal to submit to this test can result in a one-year driver's license suspension.

In addition to the implied consent law which is set forth in Vehicle Code § 23612, those who are lawfully arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence are subject to mandatory breath-alcohol testing. You have no legal right to refuse breath testing, because the United States Supreme Court held in Birchfield v. North Dakota that breath-alcohol samples may be demanded of you as part of a "search incident to lawful arrest." Officers will usually give you the option of a blood test, but they do not have to do so. If they demand a blood sample instead of breath samples, you may refuse until they get a warrant, but you will expose yourself to the possibility of a license suspension for the refusal.

What to Do During the DUI Stop

There are several important "Dos" and "Do Nots" to keep in mind when you are pulled over for DUI:

Do Be Polite

For most people, being pulled over for DUI is an unsettling experience. No matter how rattled or frightened you are, remain calm and be respectful to the police officer. It is never in your best interests to be rude or hostile to the officer. When you are asked to step out of the vehicle, calmly comply with the officer's request.

Do Not Answer Any Questions

It is important to understand that the police are not neutral, they are not your friends, and it is best to say as little to them as possible. If they ask questions such as "how much have you been drinking tonight?", you may be tempted to answer something like "just a couple beers, officer." This is a big mistake. Do NOT admit to anything. The only three pieces of information you are required to provide the officer are your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance. Beyond that, politely decline to answer any additional questions and let them know that you need to talk to your lawyer first.

Bear in mind, however, that police will likely arrest you if you are uncooperative with their questioning. It is a simple reality, as they will claim you exhibited objective symptoms of intoxication such as the odor of alcohol, red/watery eyes, slurred speech, unsteady balance, etc.

Do Not Submit to a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) Device Test

Unless you are on probation or being arrested for underage DUI, you are not required to submit to a PAS device test. In general, there is no good reason to take this test unless you have had nothing to drink. Otherwise, this test simply helps the police officer develop probable cause for a lawful DUI arrest and collect additional evidence against you for use at trial. Without probable cause, any subsequent chemical test at the police station could be inadmissible at trial.

Do Not Submit to a Field Sobriety Test

Field sobriety tests are a series of physical tests police officers use to help determine if you are intoxicated. These may include following an object with your eyes, walking a straight line, or standing on one leg. These tests are supposedly administered objectively, but if an officer has pulled you over and commenced a DUI investigation, they already suspect you are intoxicated, and they are looking for ways to prove their case. For this reason, you should exercise your right to refuse a field sobriety test.

Bear in mind, however, that your refusal to cooperate with field sobriety exercises may be used against you in court to show a consciousness of guilt.

Do Submit to a Chemical Test After Arrest

The one test you are required to submit to under California's "implied consent" law or the search-incident-to-arrest exception (if probable cause is found for your DUI arrest) is a chemical test that is administered after arrest. If police officers demand breath samples, you must provide them, and if you refuse, you face sanctions that include jail time, a longer DUI school requirement, and a suspension of your license. You may insist upon a warrant for any blood draw, but you incur the possibility of a license suspension or revocation if the police have a legitimate reason to demand it of you. If the police get a warrant to draw your blood, submit to the procedure, or you may face additional criminal charges for obstruction of justice and resisting a lawful order.

Do Contact Marin County's Only Board-Certified DUI Defense Lawyer Now

If you are pulled over for DUI, time is of the essence. You only have 10 days to request a DMV hearing, and a public defender will not represent you at this hearing. At Burglin Law Offices, P.C., we have successfully represented drivers charged with DUI for over 30 years. Attorney Paul Burglin "writes the book" on California DUI defense, and he is the "go to" attorney for DMV hearing officers, prosecutors, and judges when someone in their family or circle of friends is pulled over for DUI. Paul knows how the system works, and the best DUI defense strategies to avoid jail time and mitigate the situation as much as possible.

If you are serious about fighting the DUI charges against you, contact our office today at 415-729-7300 for a free personalized consultation. We serve clients throughout the Bay Area, including Marin County and the communities of Tiburon, Sausalito, Mill Valley, Larkspur, San Rafael, Novato, San Anselmo and Fairfax. We also assist locals and tourists cited in the wine country of Sonoma and Napa, as well as those charged in San Francisco, Oakland, and Martinez.
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