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What to do at a DUI traffic stop

If a police officer has reason to believe you're driving under the influence of alcohol, such as if you're swerving or driving the wrong way on a one-way street, it won't be long before you're pulled to the side of the road.

While no two DUI traffic stops are exactly the same, there are some basic steps you can take to protect your legal rights and hopefully avoid an arrest:

Pull over immediately. Once you see police lights in your rearview mirror, put on your four way flashers and move to the side of the road or another safe place. Stop your vehicle, put your hands on the steering wheel and wait for the officer to arrive at your window.

Be respectful. Cursing, disobeying orders or being downright rude will not work in your favor. It's best to remain respectful at all times, as acting out only gives the officer more reason to believe you're intoxicated. Depending on how far you take it, it can also result in additional criminal charges.

Don't say too much. The officer will have questions for you, including an inquiry whether you have been drinking. It's OK to answer some questions in a short and to-the-point manner. However, don't say too much, as doing so could implicate you of a crime. Also, what you say during your traffic stop can be used in court in the future. The Fifth Amendment protects your right to remain silent. You can politely state that you don't feel comfortable answering questions until you can get advice from a lawyer.

Stick to the facts. You don't want to say anything that will implicate you of a crime, but at the same time it's best to avoid a story that is clearly full of fabrications.

Keep calm if you're put under arrest. If the officer has reason to believe you're intoxicated, such as if you failed a field sobriety test, you're likely to be put under arrest. Keep calm, follow orders and don't do or say anything that could make your situation worse.

It's not always easy to follow these steps during a DUI traffic stop, as you're likely to have a lot on your mind as you attempt to avoid trouble.

If you're arrested and subsequently processed, you'll soon understand the importance of learning more about your arrest, charges and legal rights. The steps you take now can help prevent a conviction and associated penalties, which can range from a hefty fine to a license suspension to prison time.

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Jack P. Sherman, Attorney at Law
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Memphis, TN 38103

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