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Drunk Driving (OWI, DUI, OUIL) in Grand Rapids, MI: What to Do If you are Pulled Over (A Guide to Handling a Stop by the Police)

Drunk Driving (OWI, DUI, OUIL) in Grand Rapids, MI: What to Do If you are Pulled Over (A Guide to Handling a Stop by the Police)

Downtown Grand Rapids will be hosting a number of fun and exciting events in the next couple of weeks.  The Arena District will host it’s 9th annual Mardi Gras celebration this Thursday, March 4.  Laughfest runs March 6 though March 16 and has an even better lineup of comedians than last year.   Irish on Ionia, scheduled for March 15, 2014, will be twice the size as last years St. Patrick’s day celebration.  All of these events will be loads of fun and a great way to shake off the doldrums of this bitter winter.  There will also be plenty of alcohol served and consumed at all of these events.  These type of events always result in a spike in the number drunk driving arrests throughout Grand Rapids (we see a spike in the number of drunk driving cases in 61st district court and 63rd district court, especially, following these events).  The police will be out in greater numbers than normal in the upcoming weeks to ensure that everyone remains safe.  They will be looking for intoxicated drivers.  The safest and smartest thing to do is to simply take a cab to these events.  You will probably have a much better time anyhow without having to worry about who is driving.  Don’t count on only having one or two drinks and knowing when to stop so that you can drive safely.  Most of our current drunk driving clients had the exact same intention.  Remember, taxi cabs are less expensive than lawyers.

However, if you are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, there are a number of things you should know about your rights and what you should and should not do during and following a drunk driving investigation. Our attorneys at Springstead Bartish & Borgula Law have put together the following FAQ list to educate you about your rights.

What do I do if a police officer is attempting to pull me over?

Pull over as quickly and as safely as you can.  Make sure that you signal that you are pulling over. The officer will be evaluating your driving and how quickly you are responding to his signal to pull over.  If the police vehicle is equipped with a dashboard camera, it will likely be recording at this point.

What do I do once I have been pulled over?

Remain in your car.  Get your license, registration, and proof of insurance ready.  As a general practice, it’s a good idea to keep these items handy in your glovebox so that you can produce them quickly and readily upon request.  The officer will be looking for indicia of intoxication once he approaches his car.  Law enforcement officers are taught that difficulty in producing these often requested documents is a potential sign of intoxication.

What do I do when the officer approaches my window?  

Remain calm.  Being pulled over is frightening, especially if you have had even the slightest amount to drink prior to driving.  If you have been drinking, but don’t feel that you are inebriated in any way, very little of what you can say will be helpful.  Be sure to treat the officer with respect, but other than identifying yourself and producing your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance – you do not have to answer any questions – especially those that may incriminate you.  The officer may ask you questions such as: “Do you know why I pulled you over?” or “How much have you had to drink this evening?”  Do not answer those questions.  Respectfully inform the officer that you do not wish to answer those questions.  If the officer requests your driver’s license, insurance, or proof of registration, provide them to him quickly.  The longer it takes you to produce them, the more likely it is that the officer will say you were “fumbling” for them.

What do I do if the officer asks me to submit to Field Sobriety Tests?

The officer may ask you to submit to field sobriety tests.  Many times, this “request” by the officer sounds a lot more like a command.  The officer may say something like “I need you to step out of the car so that I can administer some tests to you.”  Sometimes, he might simply hold up a pen and tell you to follow it with your eyes.  You are not required to submit to these field sobriety tests.  These tests are extremely subjective and will be used against you. People with poor balance or poor night vision can easily fail when not inebriated.  If a law enforcement officers asks or tells you to submit to field sobriety tests, you should politely refuse.

What do I do if the officer asks me to submit to a Preliminary Breath Test (the breath test offered on the side of the road)?

The Preliminary Breath Test (P.B.T) device is a hand held that device that an officer will often ask you to blow into on the side of the road.  If you think you are even close to the legal limit, you should not submit to the Preliminary Breath Test that is offered on the side of the road.  If you do that, you prevent the police from collecting important information against you that they can use to justify your arrest.  Refusing to submit to a lawful request for a P.B.T is a civil infraction (like a speeding ticket).  It can result in up to a $150.00 fine, but no points will be assessed against your driver’s license.

I have been arrested for OWI.  The officer is asking me to take an evidential breath test at the jail or submit to a blood test.  What should I do?

There is a big difference between the P.B.T. that you are asked to submit to on the side of the road and the evidential breath test or blood test you are asked to submit to after you are arrested for OWI.   If you refuse to submit to an evidential blood or breath test after you have been arrested for OWI,  your license can be suspended for one year and 6 points will be assessed against your driver’s license.  Normally, the officer will request a warrant and seek to obtain a sample of your blood, regardless of your refusal.  You should know, however, that a person with hemophilia, diabetes, or taking anticoagulants does not have to consent to a blood draw because it might be medically dangerous to do so.  In such a case, the officer should offer a breath test instead.

Nevertheless, if you refuse the evidential blood or breath test, the officer will provide you with a form entitled Notice of Implied Consent Refusal.  This form indicates that the officer intends to notify the Secretary of State that you refused to submit to an evidential blood or breath test following your arrest.  The form also notifies you that you have 14 days from receipt of the form to request a hearing in front of the Secretary of State to challenge the suspension of your driving privileges.  If you have refused to submit to an evidential breath or blood test, you should always return that form to the Secretary of State and request a hearing.  You should also contact an attorney as soon as possible.

Hopefully, you never find yourself in a situation where you need to know the answers to these questions.  However, if you are being investigated or charged with a drunk driving offense and have questions regarding your rights during and after the drunk driving investigation, contact the attorneys at Springstead Bartish & Borgula Law at 616-458-5500 for a free consultation. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


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