In Philadelphia and throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania there is a typical process that law enforcement officers use to pulling over vehicles suspected of traffic violations or DUI. Below, a Philadelphia DUI lawyer discusses what you can expect if pulled over, and how you should react to questions and police commands. If you have already been pulled over and accused or charged with a crime, call and schedule a free consultation today to discuss your case.
If an individual is pulled over for a possible DUI and/or traffic violation during the daytime by a marked police cruiser, it often occurs after an officer has been watching a vehicle for at least a few blocks in most cases. That way the officer can properly judge in his or her opinion of whether a person is operating a motor vehicle safely on the streets of Philadelphia and/or in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. So what an officer often will do after following an individual is immediately put their lights and sirens on and see how the person reacts to their vehicle being pulled over.
The driver of the vehicle being stopped should then pull over to the next safe available spot in order to show the officer that the individual has the competency to know where to pull their vehicle over and the ability to understand they’re being requested to do so. These are two things that could later be used to show that the person was capable of driving safely and should never even been requested to give a breathalyzer and/or give blood to the officer at a later time.
Once an individual pulls over, an officer in most cases in Philadelphia with a partner will approach their vehicle. The person should not get out of the vehicle. The person should roll their window down if it’s up for the officer. The officer will then usually ask for license, registration and proof of insurance. An individual will then often ask the officer why they are being pulled over, the officer will indicate under some circumstances the reason for it. Maybe it’s a motor vehicle violation, maybe it’s for suspicion of DUI. The person will then be watched by the police officer and/or partners where they’re on the scene.
A lot of times the passenger side officer will stay on scene while the driver side officer returns to the patrol car, which is often parked either into the rear or in front of the vehicle preventing it from moving. The paperwork, the license, registration and proof of insurance is then run through the police computer, and upon verification that all the paperwork is accurate and is paperwork that has not expired, will return to the occupant and additional ask some questions.
A lot of times an officer will ask, “Have you been drinking?” and under most circumstances an individual should either (a) remain silent or (b) answer that question in the negative. Because under no circumstance does answering that question in a positive way, “Yes I’ve been drinking officer”, help them later even if they’re not under the influence above the 0.08 threshold.
The next thing that occurs is should the officer feel that a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol and operating a motor vehicle? Certain field sobriety tests can be administered and there are hundreds of different tests to determine or at least determine the next step on whether a person should be requested to give blood and/or a breathalyzer test.
This includes tests where you stand on one foot, touch your nose, sometimes you may be asked to follow a light to see if your pupils are dilated. All of these are used to look for signs that a person may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, however, none of which are definitive signs that a person is incapable of driving an automobile. That’s why the next step would be to ask the individual to give a breathalyzer and/or a blood sample so that their blood and/or breath can be tested.
Now in Pennsylvania, an officer is only allowed to request one of the two tests so a person is not unduly burdened. So if the officer asks for a breathalyzer, a person should always say yes. A breathalyzer will only indicate whether there’s alcohol in the system, a blood test will indicate everything possible in the system. So if there’s a preference always agree to a breathalyzer immediately. In Philadelphia you will be taken to a police headquarters often known as a roundhouse where a technician will submit you to a breathalyzer test using the latest technology and the latest breathalyzers to determine your blood alcohol content.
Should the officer request a blood draw, it can be done at the police administration building with the use of a nurse and/or at any hospital within driving distance that is set up for such DUI stops and most of them are. It’s upon those two, either the breathalyzer and/or the blood results that a person is determined or later determined to be DUI and the person would later be arrested.
In a nighttime scenario the only difference may be it may take a little bit longer given the time in the evening for a person to submit to a blood draw and/or a breathalyzer machine. Additionally, officers are much more reluctant to use field sobriety tests in the evening when a person could be injured. There’s not enough light. There might be unsafe conditions, and other oncoming traffic. So in a lot of ways it’s just a little more limited in the evening.
However, when it comes to nighttime stops, it’s much more statistically probable that a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You will get a lot more questions from the officer on where you were coming from, what you were doing that night, and things of that nature. An individual gets no benefit from answering any of those questions in the affirmative. If an officer asks you if you have been drinking there’s no reason to answer that question yes even if you have been. If an officer asks you where you coming from, you can simply say “I do not wish to answer any questions at this time.” Then the officer has to look for other indicators.
Those indicators in and of themselves, even you denying their request to answer questions, will not make them feel you are more intoxicated and they should give you a breathalyzer. Understand this, if an officer is pulling you over for suspicion of DUI, because of either blood and/or controlled substances in your system, they will require you to submit to one of the two tests regardless of your answers to any questions. So it’s in your benefit later at trial to either (a) not answer any questions, and that can’t be used against you or (b) deny any alcohol and/or drugs in your system even if it’s later determined that they were in your system.
David Clark Attorney at Law