- Don’t drive impaired in the first place. Make a plan to avoid driving before you even start drinking. Arrange for a sober driver, who should not drink at all. This is because the odor of alcohol on a person’s breath could be enough for a DUI arrest. Limit yourself to one drink every 1-1/2 hours and eat a full meal.
- If you do drive even after a single drink, drive cautiously. Check your vehicle for defects or broken lights before you start drinking. Wear your seat belt, as law enforcement can use a seat belt violation to pull you over. Stay within 5 miles of the speed limit. Use your turn signals when you change lanes and keep your lane changes crisp to avoid a claim that you were “weaving.”
- If you’re drunk, don’t pull over and sleep in your car. In Tennessee, it’s enough to be in “physical control” of a vehicle to be arrested for DUI. You can minimize your chances of arrest by turning off the vehicle, removing the keys from the ignition, get out of the car entirely and wait outside the vehicle until someone can pick you up.
- Be ready for a traffic stop. It’s a good idea to keep your driver’s license and insurance card in your shirt pocket or somewhere that they are easily accessible, so you won’t fumble to retrieve them. Even if not intoxicated, people can be nervous when stopped by police. Additionally, during the evening, keep a record of how many alcoholic beverages you consume and, if possible, pay by credit card. Knowing the name of your server and other witnesses who know how much you had to drink may prove important if you are stopped for DUI.
- If you do get stopped, don’t make mistakes. Use your turn signals and cautiously pull over in a safe location. Roll down your windows to disperse the smell of any alcohol your passengers have consumed. Keep your hands visibly on the wheel and be polite and cooperative.
- Know and exercise your rights at your traffic stop.You have the right to remain silent. Exercise it. You have the right to an attorney. Ask for one. The police officer may request that you take a roadside breath test. If you refuse this test, in may result in a suspension of your driver’s license under certain circumstances.
The officer may also ask you to participate in field sobriety tests, like the “walk and turn” or “one-leg stand” tests. If you refuse these tests, you will deny the officer whatever evidence the tests would have created. However, you increase your chance of being arrested. Nevertheless, since these tests are not required by law and are often inaccurate, you should politely refuse to take them. Sometimes, the officer will try to get you to agree you have no physical or medical problems that would interfere with taking a field sobriety test. Do not agree. Again, remain silent, other than asking to speak to a lawyer. Though you may think this makes you look guilty, that doesn’t matter because the officer likely already believes you are guilty, so you’re not convincing them of anything. You asking for a lawyer cannot be used as proof against you in court, because it is your absolute right and is not evidence that you did anything wrong.
In some cases, the officer may force a blood draw. You can object, but your consent is not required. An officer could obtain a search warrant to obtain your blood. If you refuse a blood test, you may lose your license for a year under certain circumstances, but this is often not the case. .
The officer may search your car. Do not give consent to any search, but don’t try to stop the officer once it is clear they plan to search your car.
- Preserve what evidence you can. If you are in a wreck, take photos of both the interior and exterior of all vehicles or properties involved.
- Be ready to be arrested. In Tennessee, you can be arrested even if you blow less than a 0.08% blood alcohol content. The officer’s opinion as to your level of intoxication, and the opinion of any witnesses, may be enough for a conviction. If you are put in handcuffs, you are being arrested. Remain silent except to ask for a lawyer.
- If you’re arrested, get a good, experienced lawyer on your side. Sometimes, attorneys send out letters to everyone who has been arrested in Hamilton County on a particular day. Jail personnel and others may be aware of this. The fact that a lawyer sent you a letter does not mean that they have been recommended or are in any special position to help you.
Instead, pick a local attorney who has extensive experience defending people in DUI cases. Contact the attorney as soon as possible so you have the greatest chance of protecting your license and minimizing the consequences of a DUI arrest.
- Don’t plead guilty without legal advice. You may even think you’re guilty, but you still shouldn’t plead guilty without an attorney to advise you and, possibly, to negotiate a plea bargain for you. DUI convictions can have significant consequences.
The easiest and best way to prevent a DUI is to avoid drinking and driving. If you plan to drink, have a designated driver or plan to use an Uber or Lyft or other rideshare program. The consequences of DUI can be significant, so if you are charged with DUI it is important to speak with an attorney with knowledge in this area of the law.