by Peter Lederman, Esq.
There are a lot of books that tell you how to do this or that when you have been arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). Here now, are five things you should keep in mind to avoid getting charged with this very serious offense:
1. Be Wise.
First, don’t let yourself get into a position where you need to drive when you are intoxicated. I know this is easy for me to say, but it shouldn’t be that hard for you to do. Everybody knows that the ability to make good decisions about your condition to drive safely diminishes as you continue consuming alcohol. So, simply – you cannot and should not rely on your own judgment as to whether you are good to go. After representing people charged with DWI for years, it is my belief that the best approach is to check a chart showing how much alcohol consumed will cause you to reach .08% Blood Alcohol Content, which in New Jersey is the definition of intoxication, based on your weight and sex. Then, divide that number in half, so that there is a cushion keeping you safely away from trouble. If you have any doubts about your sobriety, call a friend or a cab to take you home.
2. Pay Attention.
I know it is stressful to get pulled over by an officer or trooper. However, it is important to keep your wits, be courteous and pay attention to what is being asked. In deciding whether to get you out of your car to perform field sobriety tests, officers and troopers will consider a basic test for possible intoxication, which is whether you can “follow instructions.” People who drink too much lose their ability to understand what they should do in certain instances because of the effect of alcohol. That’s why it is important to pull over as soon as you are signaled and to provide driving documents, including your license, registration and insurance information, as soon as they are requested. Also, tests performed on the street check your ability to do two things at the same time: balance and follow directions. Listen carefully to what you are told and do just what is requested.
3. Be Courteous.
As suggested in the previous point, it is important to be courteous with the officer or trooper whenever you are stopped. Often, drivers with attitude end up with summonses that would not be issued except for poorly handling the situation on the street.
Field sobriety tests are critical tools used to determine whether someone should be arrested. As suggested earlier, it is really important to listen carefully to all instructions, as possible intoxication will be evaluated, in part, on your ability to take the right number of steps or to turn as instructed. Also, your ability to balance could be effected by injuries or other conditions affecting you, so be sure to explain exactly what the problem might be. Furthermore, don’t agree that you can do the test when your condition might create a problem. If you say nothing or fail to make clear that you have a problem, the officer or trooper will conclude that all problems performing tests are from alcohol ingestion.
5. Use common sense.
The last suggestion should be obvious. Never, never, never operate your car with alcohol containers in the vehicle! Similarly, smoking marijuana or ingesting other substances in the car will only make the officer believe that you are under the influence of some substance for which you should be arrested.
In the last analysis, drive safely on your way home, stopping at all traffic lights and stop signs, keeping in your lane and driving within the speed limit. Hopefully you’ll arrive home safely and not have to call your attorney for help the next day.