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  • Writer's pictureBrian R Boney

If pulled over drunk, politely shut up

Updated: May 26, 2023

You're not going to beat a breathalyzer, so take your chances at trial.

All of us have been pulled over while driving drunk by a police officer. It’s a nerve-wracking experience. How you react to the officer could determine whether you’re let go with a warning or spend a few days in jail.

The first concern is if you’re pulled over while driving drunk. I’ve done dozens of drunk driving trials, and the first thing to realize is that you’re probably going to jail if you’re intoxicated. There are all sorts of claims out there about how to beat a field breathalizer test – eating peanut butter, putting a penny in your mouth, drinking loads of coffee, to name a few. Don’t bother, the technology is just too good and has been improved over time. And here in Colorado, refusing the breathalyer carries an automatic one-year license suspension. This is often worse than the actually sentence for DUI.

I once had a client during a 3 a.m. stop tell her arresting office she’d been drinking at a bar all night and knew she shouldn’t be driving. Another cursed out he arresting office, even questioning his parentage. The prosecutor on the case, who works with these cops all the time, didn’t budge when it came to offering a good plea bargain. That might feel good at the time, but not in the long run.

What you can do, however, is politely refuse to answer any questions from the officer. This allows you maximum “inventiveness” if you go to trial. It also keeps you from getting caught in a lie during trial. And it makes it unlikely a judge will hear the tale of your drunken exploits and cause you to get a stiffer sentence. It also increases the chance you’ll get a better plea bargain because the cop didn’t think you were a dickhead.

What you should ALWAYS do in every stop is ask what probable cause the officer had to pull you over in the first place. Police can’t pull you over on a whim – they must have a reasonable belief, based on their observations and other indicia, that you have committed a crime. This may allow your attorney to have your entire case thrown if the police can’t provide a good reason to your judge as to why you were stopped. If they say for a broken tale light, and your tail lights are in good order, then you’ve got a chance.

You probably don’t have a chance of avoiding arrest. The tech is just too good, and you don’t want to automatically lose your license. Trying to beat that is harder than avoiding conviction of drunk driving. It’s better to be polite to the arresting officer, find out the probable cause underpinning your arrest, then taking your chances at trial.

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