When you are pulled over for a DUI, the officer will want to know if you have been drinking or using drugs. The officer will look for the most obvious signs of intoxication. These signs include, but are not limited to, bloodshot eyes and slurred speech. Be polite and assert your right to remain silent if the officer arrests you for a suspected DUI. You also have the right to refuse the Field Sobriety Test (FST).
However, you will get arrested if you refuse the FST. You have the right to talk to your DUI lawyer before taking a breath test or blood or urine test at the police station. The short and long-term implications of the arrest and conviction include fines and license revocation. You also risk losing your license plate, vehicle and facing jail time. Involving a skilled DUI defense lawyer from the onset makes you likelier to beat a DUI charge.
What to Expect When Pulled Over for a Suspected DUI
The Traffic Stop
Traffic stops form the basis of a DUI charge. They help police officers determine if the driver is under the influence or impaired.
Once the officer makes a DUI stop, he or she will make timely observations and record them as evidence. The officer will note how you pull over after flagging you down for a driving infraction.
As the officer asks you for your license and registration, he or she will look for signs of impairment. For instance, if you exhibit slower-than-average responses or fumble around, the officer will consider your reactions suspicious.
Police officers look for drivers who refuse to comply with their requests. As such, they may arrest you if you refuse to act as they demand.
Expect the officer to ask whether you had anything to drink. The officer should only do so if he or she notices you have bloodshot eyes, detects slurred speech, or smells alcohol.
The responses you give to the officer may incriminate you. As the officer asks more detailed questions about your impairment, he or she will write down everything you say. After the officer confirms that you were drinking or impaired, he or she will ask you to step out of the vehicle.
Roadside Sobriety Tests
Once the police officer asks you to step out of the vehicle, he or she will seek to confirm any suspicions he or she had about you. The officer will ask you to submit to a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test. He or she will also ask you to take field sobriety tests (FSTs) by the roadside.
Field Sobriety Tests
The most common FSTs include the one-leg stand and the walk-and-turn. Another example is the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN). FSTs help police officers collect evidence against a driver. The officers don’t use them to confirm impairment in a driver. Instead, they use them to get observations. The observations help them conclude whether there are signs of impairment.
Police officers use a breathalyzer to carry out PAS tests. The handheld device measures a driver’s BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration). PAS results can barely prove that a driver was driving while impaired. However, police officers use them to get an estimate of your BAC.
Results of the PAS Test cannot qualify as evidence in your prosecution. Instead, they only help identify a probable cause for DUI arrests.
There’s no law in Minnesota mandating you to take an FST Test. But since all 50 states have Implied Consent laws, you will have to take the PAS Test.
The police officer may arrest you if you refuse to submit to this form of chemical testing. You also risk fines, license suspension, or having an IID (ignition interlock device) on your vehicle.
If you decide to refuse the FSTs, do it politely. Inform the officer that you need to speak to your lawyer first. You should also expect the officer to read your implied consent rights, handcuff you, and take you to the police station.
The arresting officer will read you the Miranda rights once you arrive at the station. The officer will then question you further. Besides giving your name or address, refuse to answer the question politely. Inform the officer that you will only do it in the presence of a lawyer.
If the officer asks you to submit to a breathalyzer at the station, agree to it. You should, however, request to call your lawyer before taking the test. Refusing to submit to the test is a punishable crime.
Booking and Release
Most first-time DUI offenders get released on the same day they were arrested for drunk driving. They, however, need to cooperate with the investigation for this to happen.
The arresting officer may book you into police custody regardless of your offender status. As such, you will await a bail hearing. Bail hearings usually happen on the following Monday or Tuesday if the arrest occurred over the weekend. Expect to spend the weekend in jail if this condition applies to your case.
A judge can grant you a weekend bail if you have urgent matters. These urgent matters may be tending to young children or work. For this to happen, your lawyer will need to convince the judge you qualify for a weekend bail.
Conditional and Unconditional Bail
Under Minnesota law, judges can set two types of bail amounts as a condition of release. They include conditional and unconditional bail.
The judge may grant you conditional bail if you meet specific release requirements. In this case, you must quit using illegal substances or alcohol. Wearing an ankle monitor is also a condition of release.
With unconditional bail, you won’t have to adhere to any rules before the court date. The unconditional bail amount, however, is usually higher than the conditional one.
Remain in jail until someone comes to bail you out after the bail hearing. Doing so is mandatory until the judge releases you on ROR (your recognizance). With a ROR, you should work closely with a lawyer and abide by the law.
Court Hearings That Come After the Bail Hearing
Your DUI case will go through various court sessions. The court sessions include an arraignment, pre-trial meeting, suppression hearing, trial, and sentencing.
A local court will set a date for your arraignment after the arresting officer books you. Arraignment is the initial hearing that follows an arrest. You will learn about the court date through court-issued summons or tickets.
Expect the court to read your charges and ask you to enter a plea during the arraignment. Pleading guilty will remove the need for a trial and call for a sentence. On the other hand, a not-guilty plea will make the case proceed to trial.
Your lawyer can attend the arraignment on your behalf. The lawyer can also help you choose a plea.
The court will schedule a pre-trial conference once you enter a not-guilty plea. During this conference, which takes place six weeks after the arraignment, your lawyer and the prosecutor will meet. Your lawyer will ask for evidence and file pre-trial motions at the meeting.
Depending on the facts of the case, both sides can agree to a settlement. But if they can’t settle, the case will proceed to trial.
A suppression hearing is necessary if your lawyer wants the court to suppress certain evidence. The court might agree to the request if the prosecution violated your rights when gathering the evidence.
Most DUI cases in Minnesota resolve before trial. If yours goes to trial, it may take the court one to two days to reach a verdict.
You can choose to have a jury or judge try your case. For a jury trial, your lawyer will participate in the jury selection process.
A DUI misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor tried under a jury will have six jury members. The members will come from the county in which you got the charges. For a felony like a DUI vehicular homicide, the jury will comprise 12 members.
A judge will lead a bench or court trial. The judge will decide whether the evidence is adequate to find you guilty of the alleged offense.
Trials start with opening statements from the criminal defense lawyer and the prosecutor. The court will allow the prosecutor to call witnesses and present witnesses. As this happens, your lawyer can cross-examine the witnesses and present witnesses to testify on your behalf.
The trial ends with the lawyer and prosecutor giving closing arguments. Later on, the judge will issue a verdict. For a jury trial, the jury members must agree unanimously on the verdict.
The judge will give a sentence if the trial ends with a verdict that finds you guilty. The judge will also issue the sentence if you pleaded guilty at the arraignment.
Minnesota DUI Laws and Long-Term Consequences of a DUI Conviction
Minnesota recognizes DUI (Driving Under the Influence) as a criminal offense. The offense involves operating, driving, or having physical control of a vehicle while:
- Under the influence of a hazardous substance known to impair driving abilities
- Under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Having any amount of a drug (except marijuana) classified under Schedule I or II in the body
- Having a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of .08% or more
The four degrees of DUI charges in Minnesota have different legal consequences. In particular, the first degree is a felony, while the fourth degree is a misdemeanor. Most first-time offenders in the state face fourth-degree DUI charges.
Depending on the aggravating factors, your DUI charge can go from a misdemeanor to a felony. For instance, if you have a prior DUI offense in the last ten years, you risk facing serious legal consequences. Other aggravating factors include driving with a child who is under 16 years and having a BAC above 0.16%.
A DUI conviction may result in license revocation or fines. It may also lead to possible jail time, vehicle forfeiture, and license plate impoundment.
Felony or misdemeanor DUI convictions in Minnesota are available in the public database. Employers, learning institutions, and property owners can get this information by performing a simple background search. As such, a DUI conviction can hamper your chances of securing employment, student loans, and even renting a house.
A DUI conviction can also cause a significant rise in your car insurance rates. The reason is that most auto insurance companies classify motorists found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol and other intoxicants as high risk.
Another long-term consequence of a Minnesota DUI conviction is reputation damage. A DUI arrest and conviction can hurt your professional relationships with your employer and colleagues.
Steps to Follow If You Are Arrested for Drunk Driving
You have several obligations and rights when facing a DUI charge. You should, therefore, acquaint yourself with these practices with the help of a DUI lawyer. This way, you will avoid incriminating yourself at the traffic stop or police station.
Assert Your Right to Consult a Lawyer
Emphasize your right to consult with a lawyer before making any statements or answering any questions. You will also need a lawyer’s help before submitting to any tests, consenting to searches, or signing documents. The Minnesota Implied Consent Law gives you a limited right to speak to a legal counsel before taking any tests.
Comply with Reasonable Demands
Comply with the officer’s commands if they are reasonable. For instance, you should allow the officer to frisk you or your vehicle for contraband or weapons. If you resist, you may have an obstruction of justice charge added to your DUI charge.
If you are carrying a weapon, calmly inform the officer that you have one. Tell the officer that you have a valid permit to carry the weapon.
Share with the officer your personal identifying information. Only share your name, date of birth, driver’s license, address, and insurance information.
As you do this, don’t discuss anything related to the DWI offense. Instead, you can insist that you won’t give any statement unless your lawyer is present.
Since many officers have cameras on their uniforms or vehicles, expect the camera to capture your actions and words. And if the officer books you, cooperate with the photo and fingerprinting sessions.
Do Not Discuss Your Case with Anyone Other Than Your Lawyer
Avoid speaking to anyone, under any circumstances, about the alleged DUI offense. Have your lawyer present if the police officers want you to give a statement.
Always Seek Advice from Your Lawyer Before Making Any Decision
You should consult with your defense lawyer before agreeing to appear in a show-up or line-up. Do the same before submitting to a lie detector or giving samples of body fluid, fingernails, hair, and handwriting.