Guest Post: How To Avoid a DUI Tips Checklist

Brandon emailed me wanting to give some more tips to help everyone out. As always these are the guest's views, not necessarily mine. - Tom

Guest Post: How To Avoid a DUI Tips Checklist
By: Brandon Leuangpaseuth

Imagine you are leaving a bar after celebrating a good friend’s birthday.

You didn’t plan to stay long or to even drink, but you got caught up in the festivities and had one or two beers mixed with a couple of shots. After waiting a little while, you decide you were sober enough to drive home. You hastily trot outside, start your car, and drive off.

As you are driving down the road, you notice blue and red lights flashing in your rearview mirror. A cold shiver runs down the back of your leg.

What did you do wrong? Were you swerving? Speeding? Do I smell like alcohol?

A million thoughts flood through your head.

As your car pulls to a halt on the side of the road, you can feel the sweat on the palms of your hands as you grip the steering wheel tighter. The cop gets out of his car and after what seems like an eternity, approaches your car window.

Two loud thuds on your car’s glass as the cop signals for you to roll down your window.

You have never been pulled over before…

Not to mention, you are not sure if you over the legal drinking limit. You
definitely cannot lose your driving privileges…

What do you do...?

If you have ever driven with any alcohol in your system, there is always that fear in the back of your head for getting pulled over by a police officer and convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) charge. Putting yourself plus others in danger, losing your license, paying to attend DUI classes, potentially serving community service, increasing insurance costs and hiring an attorney....is a headache of a scenario.

The only surefire way to avoid a DUI is to drive with
absolutely no alcohol in your system. However, if you are pulled over and you have been drinking, here are some tips presented by a DUI attorney in Houston to help you avoid being convicted of a DUI or to lessen the penalty.

DUI Tips Checklist

Again, getting convicted of a DUI us a stressful situation so if you are planning on drinking, ride with a designated driver or use a rideshare application. The low cost of the rideshare far underweights the high price of dealing with a DUI. If you do drive and you have had a couple of drinks, here are some tips to lessen or avoid a DUI.

Before driving...

Make sure if you had a few drinks and you are about to drive, to always chew gum or breath mints and put some eye drops in your eyes. It is imperative to always carry these items in your car in case. The reason why those items are important is that it can prevent a cop from obtaining
probable cause to test you for driving impaired.

Let me explain.

When cops pull you over, they are looking for any signs of impairment. If your breath smells like alcohol or your eyes are red from drinking, you will essentially give the cops a free pass to legally mandate you to tests for alcoholic impairment.

An officer will typically search for impairment signs by observing:
  • bizarre or erratic behavior
  • poor field sobriety tests performance
  • the smell of alcohol
  • bad driving/ blatant swerving
  • slurred speech
  • bloodshot eyes

You want to do your best not to provide the officer any evidence to give them the ‘go-ahead’ to mandate you to test for impairment.

If You Are Stopped...

If you are being stopped, it is important to put yourself in the officer’s shoes. Making the officer’s life easier could go a long way when interacting with them. Some helpful tips that the officer would appreciate are to:

  • Turn on your emergency headlights - Doing this lets the officer know that you know they are pulling you over. This is especially important when you have to drive a long distance to make a safe stop to the side of the road.
  • Pullover to a safe area - When you see an officer pulling you over, it is best to pull over as fast but as safely as possible. Parking lots and well-lit areas are great spots to pull-over to. You do not want to seem like you are making a run for it by driving fast so you would want to drive slowly.
  • Put your hands on the steering wheel - you want the officer to be able to see your hands at all times. You do not want to be scouring your car searching for your license and registration yet, because it can look dangerous or even suspicious.

Remember, it is important to not give the officer any evidence to build a case against your conviction. An officer’s job is to gather enough evidence to obtain probable cause and legal permission to test you for alcoholic impairment.

Here is how you can deny them acquiring evidence:

Respectfully Decline to Answer Questions

First off, the officer will ask you for your driver’s license and registration. Usually, the officer will follow up by asking you a series of seemingly innocuous questions such as:

“Where are you coming from? Do you know why I pulled you over? Did you have any drinks tonight?”

These questions are meant to construct a case against you for your conviction. The last thing you want to do is give the officer evidence to create a case against you! It sounds like common sense...but a lot of people forget or are unaware of the fact that the questions are
optional.

It is best to respectfully use your 5th amendment and decline to answer any questions. Again, it is best to not be rude or impolite. Being courteous will make the whole interaction a lot smoother.

You may think your answers may harmless, but anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law. It is best to politely decline to answer, keep your mouth shut and not risk giving away any evidence.

Politely Refuse Any ‘Tests’
A lot of people are unaware that the tests an officer will ask to administer to you are all voluntary--to an extent.

Here’s what I mean.

You can refuse:
  • The officer’s roadside field sobriety tests such as counting, the balance test, etc
  • The officers follow the finger or pen test
  • The optional portable breathe test

Most people have the logic of, “
well I don’t want to say ‘no’ because the officer will think I am guilty

There is a fallacy in that thinking because if you do any of the sobriety tests, you are giving the officer evidence for your DUI conviction...and more severe punishment.

Not to mention, there are a lot of holes or flaws in the tests that they administer. For one, all the tests such as the balance test and counting test are all based on their own opinions or judgments. This means they are subjective.

Not only do the observations of ‘passing a test’ vary from officer to officer...the field sobriety tests are plain difficult. It may sound easy and unintimidating to imitate movements such as walking toe to heel in a straight line, balancing on one foot or touching, reciting the alphabet backward...but they simply are not.

Don’t believe me?

Go try taking a golf class.

You’ll quickly see that imitating basic movements for the first time is extremely difficult.

The tests would be hard to do
stone-cold sober.

So do yourself a favor and politely decline their tests and let them know that you would not like to submit to any tests.

This goes for the pen and eye tests too. Sure, this test is extremely simple to follow. However, that police officer is probably NOT an ophthalmologist or a trained doctor...so their perceived data will be biased, inaccurate and can lead be used against you int the court of law.

Also, don’t blow in a portable breathalyzer on the side of the road. The roadside breathalyzer test is optional. Think about this:
do you know what the breathalyzer’s results will say?

I can tell you, you don’t know what the machine is going to say or if it will read the same number each time you blow into it. I repeat, do not take the breathalyzer.

Again, politely decline to do any of these tests which results can be misinterpreted and be used against you for a DUI conviction.

Quick Tips

If the officer believes there is enough probable cause that you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they will arrest you.

After they arrest you and bring you back to the station, they will ask you to take a breathalyzer or blood test. This test you can NOT refuse. If you do, there will be some severe consequences such as getting your license suspended for a long period of time.

I would recommend that you take the blood test over the breathalyzer test at the station. There are a lot of steps involving humans in conducting a blood test that can leave room for ‘human error’. An experienced DUI attorney can argue for the results being contaminated or inaccurate because of a mistake from a person.

Also, if your license is taken, you have 10 days to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Checklist Recap:
  • Before leaving when driving: eat gum, breath mints and put eye drops in your eyes.
  • If you are stopped: respectfully decline to answer questions
    • Decline to follow the officer’s pen or finger
    • Decline the roadside sobriety test such as counting, balancing, etc.
    • Decline to answer any questions
    • Decline the optional portable breath test
    • You must take the required official breath or blood test at the station
    • You have 10 days to call the DMV if your license was taken.

Here’s to Avoiding DUIs

There you are.
The checklist to help you avoid a DUI.

Driving while impaired is a
common big problem that can put you and other people’s lives in danger. Remember, the surefire way to be safe and avoid a DUI is to drive with absolutely no alcohol in your system. Find a designated driver or use a ridesharing application to save yourself a lot of time and money if you are convicted of drunk driving charges.

If you do get pulled over and you had a few to drink, keep these tips in mind. They can help you avoid a DUI or lessen the consequences. Instead of giving away evidence to be used against you in court, let your DUI attorney fight in court over the fact that you refused to give up your rights.

On Probation

On Probation

Hi everyone. Been a while, I know. Truth of the matter is that once you’re sentenced, you’ve done your classes, gotten rid of your interlock, got your license back, life continues where you left off. Sure, your insurance is still high, but there’s an end in sight.

You might not believe this, but there comes a time when you
hardly even think about your DUI.

It’s a good feeling. It’s a weird feeling.

Probation in CA lasts for three years. Throughout my journey with the DUI I kept getting different answers as to when it started. In my final assessment, my DUI class instructor told me that it started from the date of arrest. That made me feel better. It did not turn out to be the case. You’re on
probation as soon as you get arrested, but it doesn’t count towards your probation. Would’ve been nice if it did, but, alas, it’s just how things go.

My lawyer told me it would start from the day I was
sentenced. This seemed to make sense, but this, too, wasn’t quite the case. One day a few weeks ago, I decided to call up the DMV and double check (always a good idea) to make sure that my probation had passed like it should have. It did. Just my last day of probation was a month and a half later than I had calculated.

No idea why, and there’s really nothing I could’ve done about it. Can you imagine calling the DMV, “Hi, while I didn’t violate my probation, can you retroactively make my probation have ended earlier?”

If I had to do it again, which I’m trying my damnedest not to, I would’ve gotten my lawyer or called myself to find a definitive date that my probation was over. Would’ve had a small little celebration to myself when midnight ticked over on the clock when it happened (not drinking and driving, of course).

The probation you go on for your first DUI (and possibly others) is called “Summary Probation”, which basically means “don’t fuck up or we’ll throw the book at you”. There’s no expensive probation officer, which is probably the first time they let you not have another fee they could charge you. No PO, no checking in, nothing like that. Just don’t mess up.

Additionally you can't refuse a field sobriety test, and your odds of getting picked at a
DUI checkpoint raise if they're checking plates (although I cruised through two, sober, without being tested).

So what is messing up?

Some people believe it’s committing any crime, but that’s not quite it. My lawyer told me that he had somebody arrested for shoplifting while on DUI probation and the court didn’t care, didn’t consider it a violation. (
Update: I have been told in other states that this will trigger a violation, so best to keep clean as a whistle) While this blog does not condone shoplifting or any other crimes in any way whatsoever, you should know what scrutiny you’re under.

This probation deals with alcohol and driving - basically you can’t get caught with even a drop of alcohol in your blood when you’re driving or else you’ll face some consequences (and remember, you can't refuse a test). The common thing to say is that it’s another DUI even if you’re at .0001, but that’s not true either. They can only give you a DUI if you’re over .08 (.05 now in some places), otherwise it’s “just” a probation violation, which means more school, more money paid, more probation. If you’re above .08 you get a DUI on top of that. Not good.

Other traffic infractions are fine. This I can verify personally - I did receive a parking ticket, and an out-of-state speeding ticket (14 over on the highway, bullshit speed trap), and neither affected my probation or caused any additional consequences (and yes, I was sweating bullets when pulled over on that highway and very worried about if this counts as a violation. Next rest stop I did a lot of googling until I calmed down enough to continue on my trip.)

Any sort of aggravated driving, road rage, that sort of thing takes you into the “maybe” territory. It’s all up to a judge and the system, and by this point you know how it goes. If they can, they usually will. You might catch a break, probably not, depends on a lot of things out of your control, and how you handle yourself around them. Bottom line: I wouldn’t depend on anything.

Your Summary Probation basically comes down to two tenets:
  1. Don’t drink and drive
  2. Don’t be an asshole.

Seems easy enough. But three years is a long, long time. It gets harder and harder the longer you are from your DUI. Drinks after work, wine with a meal, beer at a ballgame. The temptations are everywhere. And if you’re like me, and haven’t quit drinking, you’ll eventually indulge yourself.

“A beer or two won’t hurt, not like I’m getting drunk, not like that night”

And then you wait a little bit, don’t get ‘one more for the road’, call it early.

And then you get in your car, and you head home. With just a little bit in your system. Nothing too bad, just a little bit.

And then a cop gets behind you.

And then you start sweating, worrying. Praying that your tail light is working, making sure your seat belt is fastened tight.

And the cop keeps following you, and you start worrying if he is playing games with you, you’re worrying that he somehow knows that you’re in violation.

You turn off the radio, you pay the best attention you can, and then eventually the cop turns down another road, and you let out a big sigh of relief.

Then two weeks later your friend asks you to happy hour.

And you start to sweat again, and think about what could happen.

This is what it’s like. It’s easy in that you don’t really have to do anything except not mess up. It’s hard in that our society practically pushes people to drink and drive. Odds are you’re reading this because you went to a social function, or did something that we’re told is how you relax. You felt fine because we don’t teach people how alcohol affects the body and it’s impossible to “feel” what your BAC level is. We make fun of people who use breathalyzers, and everyone condemns drinking and driving but nearly everyone does it.

You’re going to find yourself in a lot of situations where you will be tempted to violate your probation. I suggest
knowing your BAC by using a portable breathalyzer, or taking an Uber or Lyft.

Looking over your shoulder for cops all the time sucks.

Some lawyers will offer you a service to where they can reduce your probation, usually take off the third year. I didn’t go for this, they wanted a thousand dollars for it, and I’d spent enough. Instead, I went through the whole thing. The theory is they cite your fulfilling all your commitments and use your two years (one and a half in some cases) of not violating probation as evidence that you won’t violate it for the next. Works some times, doesn’t work others. I decided to stick it out, a thousand dollars buys a lot of Lyfts, and I can refuse one last round and wait it out.

And so I did.

And now I’m free.

Reader, I can’t tell you how good it feels to be free of the system to come this far. Now I just have to get past the 3-year anniversary of finalizing my suspension to get my insurance rates to fall to normal and then… it’s all behind me.

The journey is long, and it’s hard, but just take it one step at a time, and you can get through it. It costs a lot, and it takes up a lot of time, but you can get through it.

You can Survive a DUI.

Guest Post: Ways to Challenge Breathalyzer Test

I received an email via my contact page from John Adam, who wanted to wanted to give some perspective on how to challenge the Breathalyzer test. Interesting stuff - Tom

The use of breath to determine the blood alcohol level of a person is the most popular scientific method in DUI cases. There are many cases, when the wrong Breathalyzer tests cause the person, under suspicion of driving while drinking, face DUI charges. Breathalyzer results are inaccurate because of certain problems with calibrations or if there is an untrained police officer using the device.

The prosecuting party has to prove in the court that the defendant’s BAC was at or above the legal limit. In a few states, it is .10% while in others it is .08%. When the person is wrongfully charged on the basis of defective Breathalyzer tests, the defendant needs a
DUI attorney to challenge the Breathalyzer test in court.

The Burden of Proof in Challenging the Results:
Under the wrongful DUI charges, the defendant must prove that these charges are invalid for the conviction. This is possible when the attorney convinces the court that there is a lack of strength in evidence or it is insufficient to convict the accused. The defense team may focus on the witness statement and evidence without having the burden of proof. When the defense refutes the proof and demonstrates that the prosecution has not strengthened in the case, this may help in dismissing the
charges.

Use of Breathalyzer:
There are many cases when the Breathalyzer is not used properly. The police officer uses the device inaccurately given improper maintenance, training or calibration, which gives the inaccurate results. When the prosecuting party has Breathalyzer results as the only evidence, by only refuting this proof it becomes easy as well as effective to defend the person from the conviction. However, in this case, the defense team needs the help of an expert in these devices or understands well the proper calibration to give accurate results.

Training of the Police Officer:
In many cases, the police officer who pulls over the driver on suspicion of being under the influence of drug or alcohol, may not be properly trained to conduct a Breathalyzer test or use the device. The device cannot provide the results if the officer does not use it accurately. There are certain rules for this such as observing the driver for twenty minutes to determine whether the results are accurate or not. Moreover, the office is supposed to check the intestinal health of the accused or alcohol in the mouth.

Calibration:
Breathalyzers have settings as well as calibrations that need regular maintenance and understanding. In case the officer in charge is unaware of how to set the device and keeps it maintained, the device can produce the wrong results.

Few devices need to be repaired and parts replaced. In case of lack of knowledge about taking care of the device, there will be inaccurate results leading to wrong DUI charges. Not only one, but all or most of the arrest will be affected.

Challenging the Results Varies According to the Case:
In addition to the above-mentioned ways, there are other ways to challenge the Breathalyzer tests. For instance, the accused may have a special condition that could lead to the retention of the alcohol in his or her system that brings wrong results. This is another effective to challenge the results and refute the charges completely.

Other factors involved, the environmental temperature and pressure in the atmosphere, and the chemical composition of the person taking the test. This refers to the emotional stress and physical activity, hyperventilating, heavy breathing due to anxiousness.

Given these several factors, the results are inaccurately measured. This is the reason few of the DUI cases involve expert witness who gives the testimony about the inaccuracy of the device with incorrect results. The DUI attorney must present the valid argument based upon these facts and evidence.

Final Word:
The defendant needs the support of the lawyer to challenge the Breathalyzer tests, as the attorney is skilled in dealing with such cases and will guide according to the given circumstances.

Guest Post: 4 Tips to Survive A DUI Checkpoint

I received an email via my contact page from Brandon Leuangpaseuth, who wanted to share some tips to get through a DUI checkpoint. - Tom.

There has been a lot of controversy with the legality of checkpoints because you are protected by the 4th amendment from unreasonable searches and seizures. However, the Supreme Court evaluated the entire circumstance of DUI checkpoints. They determined that the state's interest in safe roads and the success rate of finding impaired drivers weighed against the average
delay of less than 30 seconds per driver meant that the search and seizure were not unreasonable. The U.S. Supreme court upheld the legality of DUI checkpoints.

The best way to survive a checkpoint is to be completely sober. However, if you had a few drinks and you encounter a police DUI checkpoint, here are 4 tips to surviving the checkpoint.

1. Use Your Right To Remain Silent

The majority of checkpoint encounters would start with the police officer asking you a series of questions to determine if you have been drinking. What a lot of people don’t realize is that you are not obligated to answer any of these questions. You are protected by the 5th amendment and have the right to remain silent and not have to contribute to your own potential demise. If an
officer asks you if you had any drinks tonight, you can just say “I respectfully decline to answer these questions, and I would like to talk to my
defense attorney”.

Anything you say, can and will be used against you in a case if you are arrested. If you answered that you had a few drinks, the officer has some suspicion that you are potentially breaking the law. No matter how nice the officer may seem, they are doing their job - trying to get evidence to support a case against you.

2. Refuse the Field Sobriety Test and the Breathalyzer Test

Most people think that if they refuse the field sobriety test or the breathalyzer test, they will get their license suspended. This is a common misconception. The only time you will get your license suspended is if after you are arrested and you refuse to take a breathalyzer or blood test. If you decline the field sobriety test or the breathalyzer test before the officer has any probable cause to arrest you, you will be okay.

The officer is collecting evidence to determine if they have probable cause that you have committed a crime. Failed completion of field sobriety tests is used, in the officers eyes, as evidence that a crime has been committed. The field sobriety test is a difficult test to take even if you are completely sober. In a field sobriety test, an officer will administer three tests to determine if you are intoxicated: the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg stand test. It is in your best interest to not provide any excess evidence to allegations of you committing a crime.

3. Do Not Get Out of Your Car (Unless There Are Signs of Alcohol And You Have To)

Officers have no right to force you out of your car unless they have reason to believe that you are drunk. However, slurred words, an open container or the aroma of alcohol can be enough probable cause to make a case for a DUI. Going this route, the officer has to establish exactly what they are being arrested for a DUI.

Oftentimes, the police officer will ask you to step outside and you should always respectfully decline. Do not give the officer probable cause to arrest you.

4. Don’t drive through!

You do not have to drive through a DUI checkpoint. You can turn around and simply not drive through the DUI checkpoint. There are no laws forcing you to drive through a DUI checkpoint.

As long as you do not commit a crime i.e. an illegal turn or any other traffic violation, the officer does not have enough probable cause to pull you over and detain you. Oftentimes, DUI checkpoints can be a long line and you are not obligated to wait in the line.

If you have been out and drinking, and you do not want to deal with the hassle of a DUI checkpoint, just turn around legally and you will be fine.


A DUI for the Hollidays

Just a quick reminder -

We think of the holidays fondly, with friends and family, warm fires, rich meals, and celebration. However, with all of that comes the consequences - police are patrolling heavily during this time looking for people to arrest for a DUI.

The most heavily day enforced is the day before Thanksgiving - as people come in from out of town, catch up with their families, then head off the bar to see their old friends, they think that it's a fun, jolly time, and don't plan ahead. Won't the cops want to be with their friends before the holiday?

Unfortunately, they don't work that way.

Police are looking for when you drop your guard to catch you. Between Thanksgiving week and New Year's Day, police patrols and checkpoints are out in large numbers.

So, plan ahead - either make sure you're ok to drive with
your own breathalyzer or grab a ride to and from the bar.

Don't spend any part of these holidays behind bars.


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