Convictions, fines, jail terms and license suspensions for DUIs vary from state to state—ranging from mild to severe. Obviously, nobody wants to be charged with such a traffic offense; however, if you do get caught in the act, here's what to do in order to avoid a conviction.
Avoid a Traffic Stop
Keep Your Vehicle in Good Condition
Whenever you're on the road, it is your responsibility to keep the vehicle in good condition. This includes the headlamps, tail lights, brake lights and indicator lights. Your windows should not be tinted/darkened beyond the permissible limit, and your license plate should be well illuminated and visible in its entirety. It is common to see drivers pulled over for such minor offenses, and then end up with major charges including being arrested for DUI.
Obey All Traffic Rules
You are supposed to obey all traffic rules. Staying within the speed limit is critical if you don't want the cops to notice you. Likewise, using a handset, making the wrong U-turn, not signalling, etc. are serious offenses and easily noticeable. Additionally, repeat offenders will receive punishments that are more severe than for first-time offenders.
Keep Your Registration and Insurance Up to Date
Keeping your car registration number as well as insurance up to date is always a good practice. A lapsed registration case is not easy to get out of.
Always Carry All Vehicle Documentation
Always carry the necessary papers with you: license, vehicle registration, insurance and all other applicable documents.
What to Do When You're Pulled Over
Keep Your Cool
You should be on your best behavior when pulled over, because there's a good chance that you are being filmed, audiotaped or photographed during an arrest. This can be used against you in the conviction process. So, maintain a calm and polite demeanor at all times.
Respect the Police
The cops are human beings too. You have to give due respect to their duties, which are usually not pleasant.
Know That Your BAC Need Not Be Zero
The notion that you should be a teetotaler during driving is false. You can have a maximum of a 0.08 BAC (blood alcohol concentration)—as per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is a branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Avoid the Sobriety Test
You need not take the voluntary field sobriety tests. Promising to let you go free could be a trick to lure you into taking these tests, because once you give consent, the results can be used against you in the next day's trial. If you decline to do the field sobriety exercises, do it politely so as not to get on the officer's bad side.
Avoid the PAS Test
If you are over 21 years of age, you have the option to decline the preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test. An officer cannot insist on this test if you declare your age (as long as it is supported by the age on the driving license).
Currently, breathalyzer and blood tests are the two approved methods in most states. If you happen to be on parole or probation, or involved in another DUI case, it is advisable that you don't take these tests. In the past, urine tests were conducted, but now most states have realized that they aren't sufficiently reliable. (However, the accuracy is improved if an osmometer is used.)
Avoid Giving Statements
Try to avoid giving statements to the police. (This is applicable both before and after the arrest.) Any statement or declaration that you make would be used against you in a court of law. Again, though, the decision of whether or not to give a statement to the cop is up to you.
Remain Silent During Interrogation
You are supposed to remain silent during interrogation, and you have the option to decline a request for tests, including the field sobriety tests (as mentioned above).
Preparing Your Defense
Even if it seems trivial, you should be prepared to make a note of the full sequence of events that led to your arrest or charges, including the traffic stop, discussions with the officer, etc. These details may help your lawyer to be better prepared when fighting your case.
Know Your Rights
You have to utilize your rights properly. You are going to have 10 days from your date of arrest to call the DMV and request an APS hearing. This time frame is ideal for preparing your case properly, as well as mentally adjusting to the reality of your situation.
Get a DUI Lawyer
Engage with a DUI lawyer of the respective state who is familiar with the laws and, more importantly, who knows the interpretation of law. They should have a track record of successfully dealing with witnesses, prosecutors, judges, juries and DMV hearing officers.
Get a Second Legal Opinion
You may also try to get a second opinion on the legal aspects. A DMV attorney would be ideal to represent you and to explain the penalties for drunk driving and how best to protect your license with the DMV.
With a few precautions, you can avoid a possible fine, jail or license suspension. A DUI lawyer can help.