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What happens when police pull someone over for drunk driving?

| Oct 31, 2019 | DWI

Imagine you are driving home from dinner with friends. You had some wine with dinner and a cocktail afterward, but you had no doubts that you were okay to drive. Suddenly, you see red and blue lights flashing in your rearview mirror, and you start to panic. What did you do? Are you actually over the legal limit? What will the police ask you to do?

If this scenario becomes real for you, it is important to know what happens when police pull you over for suspected drunk driving in Pennsylvania.

General DUI stop procedures

Police can stop you if they have probable cause or reason to suspect you have committed a crime or violated a traffic law. During a stop, an officer may approach the stopped car and ask for a license and registration. He or she will observe your behavior, speech and appearance.

Police can ask you where you were, where you are going and whether you have been drinking. He or she may also ask you if it is okay to search your car, which you can refuse.

If the officer suspects you have been drinking, he or she may ask you to take a preliminary breath test and administer field sobriety tests. These tests are voluntary. They are subjective and can give police probable cause to arrest you.

If they do arrest you, police can ask you to submit to formal chemical testing. You have the right to refuse any chemical test. However, doing so is a violation of Pennsylvania informed consent laws, and you will lose your license for at least one year, even if you are not convicted of a DWI.

When police make mistakes

Every traffic stop is different, though police must follow procedure. If they fail to do so, charges resulting from the stop could be thrown out. Some areas where police make mistakes include:

  • Stopping a driver without a valid reason
  • Conducting an illegal search of a person’s vehicle
  • Incorrectly administering field sobriety tests
  • Using a faulty or improperly calibrated breath testing device

Protecting yourself during a stop

It can be frightening to get pulled over. However, knowing this information can help you stay calm and make informed decisions. You can also always consult an attorney to determine if a stop was valid and how you may be able to defend against DUI charges. Contact an attorney at the Quinn Law Firm for a free consultation by calling us at 814-806-2518.