What to Do if You're Pulled Over for a DUI

What happens when the blues and reds flash

By Janet Leiser | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on September 5, 2023 Featuring practical insights from contributing attorneys Robert Reiff, Jonathan B. Blecher and Daniel R. Aaronson

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More than a million motorists in the U.S. are jailed each year on charges of driving under the influence. They face harsh penalties—from jail time to the loss of driving privileges to the loss of a job.

Then there’s the money.

The average cost of a first DUI arrest is an estimated $10,000, including court costs and legal fees, says Jonathan Blecher, a Miami criminal defense attorney who specializes in DUI law.

More important than the financial cost, of course, is the danger of driving while impaired. About one in three traffic fatalities involves an impaired driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“My first advice I give people is don’t drive drunk,” Blecher says.

Pull Over for a Traffic Stop 

So what should a motorist do when flashing blue-and-red lights appear in the rearview mirror? While it may seem obvious, it’s important not to panic and try to flee, says Daniel R. Aaronson, a criminal defense lawyer at Benjamin, Aaronson, Edinger & Patanzo law firm in Fort Lauderdale.

“Comply immediately and pull over to the side of the road,” says Aaronson.

Don’t say anything or do anything. It will be used against you in court

Robert Reiff

Remember Your Rights

But don’t forget the right to remain silent. In Blecher’s opinion, “Anything you say to the officer is somehow going to be twisted against you.” 

Robert “Bobby” Reiff, a Miami-based DUI criminal defense lawyer and author of “Drunk Driving & Related Vehicular Offenses,” agrees that silence is key to a good defense. “Don’t say anything or do anything. It will be used against you in court,” Reiff says.

My first advice I give people is don’t drive drunk… [Second], anything you say to the officer is somehow going to be twisted against you.

Jonathan B. Blecher

Be Polite to the Police Officer, and Decide Whether to Take the Sobriety Tests

It’s important to be polite when the officer approaches as well as silent. Readily provide the required paperwork—a driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. 

All three Florida-based DUI defense attorneys advised against doing the standardized field sobriety tests because the pass-or-fail results are based on the law enforcement officer’s opinion.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Refusing the BAC Test

You can also refuse to take a blood alcohol content (BAC) breath test; however, under state implied consent laws, there are penalties for refusing.

In Florida, for example, a driver’s license is automatically suspended for one year for refusing a breathalyzer test. A hardship license to drive to and from work can be requested from the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles. Most of those requests, which must be made within 10 days of an arrest, are granted in first-time DUI cases, Blecher says. In Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, drivers arrested for the first time on DUI charges can apply to prosecution-diversion programs. “For first offenders, the realization is that people who made one mistake should not be stigmatized for life,” Blecher says.

It’s important to note that attorneys’ views on whether or not to take breath tests vary depending on the state. In some jurisdictions, it makes sense to undergo testing, given the DUI laws. There is no one-size-fits-all answer for every state.

[If you see police lights coming for you], comply immediately and pull over to the side of the road.

Daniel R. Aaronson

Finding an Experienced DUI Lawyer

If you have been charged with a DUI, speak with a criminal defense lawyer with experience in DUI charges as soon as possible. Many law offices provide free consultations for attorneys to learn about your case.

To find an experienced DUI lawyer in your area of Florida, search the Super Lawyers directory. To learn more about this area of law, including legal defenses, read our overview of DUI/DWI law.

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