The site of those flashing lights behind you can induce major anxiety and if you've been drinking while driving, those flashing lights become downright terrifying. It helps to have a foreshadow of what to expect if you're being pulled over for drinking and driving.
If an officer observes you driving erratically or has suspicion that you're violating the law with your driving, he or she has reasonable cause to pull you over. If signs of alcohol or drug use are present the officer will ask you to perform field sobriety tests (FSTs) which are voluntary and the officer will most likely ask you to submit to a roadside preliminary breath test (PBT). You have the right to refuse the PBT but doing so can earn you a civil infraction ticket with a fine, however no points will be applied to your driving record for refusing. This test is used to establish probable cause for an arrest.
Once arrested and taken to the police station, a second round of tests are administered and you (if you're the driver) will be kept at the police station overnight. Prior to any test at the station, the officer is required to read you your Chemical Test Rights. No consent on your part is required for these tests to be performed, the Chemical Test Rights merely have to be read to you. You will be submitted to a blood, breath or urine test—and in many cases the “breath” option is used and administered on a BAC Datamaster (breathalyzer.) You have the right to refuse this test, but the penalties are much higher. You are subject to a possible 6 points and 1-year license suspension and if you do refuse the breath test, a warrant for a blood draw can be obtained so your refusal basically gets overridden anyway.
You may be released from detainment the next day or you could be arraigned. At arraignment, you as the defendant are advised of your rights, the charges, and the potential penalties. If you have an attorney already notified and hired he or she can be present at arraignment. Most drivers in this situation often don't have an attorney on-hand that they can call in the amount of time that has elapsed between being pulled over and being arraigned. You have the right to call an attorney but not before the chemical tests have been completed. Having a competent, knowledgeable attorney at arraignment is key to obtaining a low bond at this point.
OWI stops are often but not exclusively made on weekends and evenings. At George Law, we are available at any time. I have visited clients in custody in the middle of the night, during weekends and early in the morning. The earlier you obtain an attorney in your OWI case, the better equipped you are to gain a positive outcome.
Check back for the next post that will walk through the rest of the process including possible penalties for an OWI charge.