The officer is going to put all of your admissions in their police report, and this will likely come back to bite you. You can be polite to the officer, and say “Yes Sir,” and “No Sir,” but you have a Constitutional Right to Remain Silent and not to incriminate yourself. It is in your best interest to utilize that. If the officer asks you if you have been drinking tonight, answer “I am invoking my Right to Remain Silent.” If the officer asks any other questions that is meant to incriminate you, your answer is “I am invoking my Right to Remain Silent.” I know it sounds weird, and you think that answering that way will make it sound like you are Guilty, but if the case goes to court, not only will the prosecutor not have evidence – your own words – to use against you, but the prosecutor will not even be able to comment on your invocation of your Right to Remain Silent. That means they can’t bring up in court that in response to the officer’s question, you said that you were invoking your Right to Remain Silent. To do so would punish you for invoking your Constitutional Rights, and would likely lead to your case being dismissed. I had it happen once on a guy facing 10 years in prison. Be polite, but keep quiet.
Myth # 4. I have to do what the officer tells me, including the Field Sobriety Tests (Walk & Turn, 1 Leg Stand, Finger-to-Nose Test, etc.). FALSE. The officer cannot force you to do any of the tests to ‘Help him figure out if you are safe to continue driving.’ It is a trick. Most of the general population cannot do these Field Sobriety Tests in any circumstance. The only exception being ballerinas, gymnasts, and officers, because they have practiced it so much in order to show DUI suspects and juries how easy it is to do. If you attempt the Field Sobriety Tests, you will fail. Even if you think you did well on the Field Sobriety Tests, you will fail. The problem is, these tests are rigged against the person. The officer won’t tell you what is a strike against you, so even if you do it perfectly, you still somehow did it wrong. Walked a straight line perfectly, but you missed touching your heel to toe on one step… Strike 1. Did an about-face turn instead of a three step pivot… Strike 2. Started the test before the officer fully explained all the instructions… Strike 3. It is like this for each of the Field Sobriety Tests. It is nearly impossible for any person, drunk or sober, to successfully complete these tests. Furthermore, on the very very rare occasion that someone does unbelievable well on these tests, they still end up getting arrested for DUI. Doing these requested tests only hurts a person. It will not stop you from getting arrested. It only give the officer more evidence to prove (falsely) that you were impaired. You don’t have to do the tests. The officer won’t hold a gun to your head. The best thing to say is, “I have horrible balance issues, and I don’t want to give you the false impression that I am impaired, so do not want to do the tests.” Same goes with the Portable Breath Test – the portable, handheld machine that officers ask you to blow into. You don’t need to do it.
Myth # 5. My Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) was really high, I am going to get charged with a Felony. FALSE. Your Blood Alcohol Content has nothing to do with whether you are charged with a Felony or Misdemeanor Charge. You will be charged with Aggravated DUI (Felony DUI) only if you had a suspended, revoked, cancelled, refused, or restricted license; or you have two or more prior DUIs within seven years; or you were ordered to have an Ignition Interlock Device on your vehicle at the time; or you had a child under the age of 15 in the vehicle at the time. Those are the only ways you can be charged with Aggravated DUI. Anything else is a Misdemeanor DUI charge. Now, where your Blood Alcohol Content can come into play is with the type of Misdemeanor DUI charge you are facing. There are four different types of Misdemeanor DUI charges: Impaired to the Slightest Degree; Above a .08 BAC; Above a .15 BAC; and Above a .20 BAC. The higher the BAC, the bigger the range of fines, fees, and jail time, but a high BAC will not turn a Misdemeanor into a Felony
Myth # 6. I am an awesome person, the officer / prosecutor / judge will let me go. FALSE. Arizona is one of the strictest states in the nation for DUI offenses. In some city courts, it is possible for an Attorney to negotiate a DUI down to something like Reckless Driving, however, somewhere like the City of Phoenix, they just won’t do it no matter what. The prosecutors want to treat everyone the same. Rich or poor, black or white, young or old, everyone is on an even playing field. You may be a saint… literally, a saint, but that doesn’t mean that the prosecutor will just drop the case, and let you go. We have seen celebrities, priests, officers, and even defense attorneys and prosecutors go down for a DUI. You aren’t going to be given a ‘second chance’ just because you are awesome. Also, Arizona, unlike some other states, does not allow for a ‘Diversion Program,’ instead of jail. Diversion is available for some crimes, but not DUI. You can’t just go to class and pay some money to ensure that you don’t have a DUI on your record. If you are charged with DUI, chances are you are either going to have to fight, or take a plea agreement. Very rarely will a case just disappear, and if it does, it is because it fell through the cracks somehow (exceedingly rare), not because of how awesome you are.
Myth # 7. I don’t need a Private Attorney or a Public Defender, I can handle this on my own. TRUE. While the saying goes that “Anyone who represents themselves has a fool for a client,” the United States and Arizona Constitution does allow a person to represent themselves in court as long as they are competent. This is highly, highly not recommended Attorneys go to school for a very long time, and know how to handle themselves in court. An Attorney knows how to argue before the court, write motions, argue in front of a jury, and prepare for a trial if necessary. It is almost a given that a person representing themselves will more likely lose, and will more likely get a harsher sentence.
Myth # 8. My life is over, I got arrested for DUI. FALSE. DUIs are serious. They are not fun. A conviction will lead to some harsh penalties, including jail time and loss of license for a while. But your life is not over. A DUI conviction is a slap on the wrist. It is a very hard slap on the wrist, but it is a slap on the wrist. You can overcome this. Yes, a conviction will come with jail time, and fines and fees, counseling, and other forms of punishments, but you will be able to move past it, and the most important part, is that you learn from it. Things only get worse if you don’t learn your lesson. I recall a DUI Defendant – not my client, but another Attorney’s client that I observed in court. That person got sentenced to decades in prison. Why? They never learned to stop drinking and driving. No one was ever injured, but the person kept driving drunk. They drove drunk, went to jail, got out, and drove drunk again. Went to jail for longer, got out, and drove drunk again. And as time went on, they went to prison for years, got out, and drove drunk again. Finally, after the eighth DUI conviction, the court sentenced the man to decades in prison. HIS life was over, but his situation is the exception. Most people will learn their lesson after their first DUI arrest. You can pay the fines, do the counseling, spend the time in jail, and do everything else expected of you, then move forward with your life. However, this is considering that you are actually convicted of a DUI. That is why it is important to get an experienced DUI Defense Lawyer, to hopefully find the legal loopholes to allow you to learn your lesson, without a conviction, and without court-imposed penalties.
Myth # 9. Those Attorneys I see on the billboards and on buses must be good. I should hire them. FALSE. Let’s just say that you will be paying a lot more money for a lot less representation. Those law firms need to get you in, pay, and get you out, to continue paying for their high advertising costs. The general public may not be aware of these law firms reputation, because they just see the smiling face. Other Attorneys in the community know the truth, because they have to handle the fallout after these law firms take the client’s money, then drop them, after filling their heads with false promises and false expectations in order to get them to pay up. I have represented quite a few clients after the ‘big guys’ took their money and dropped them. You are literally going to pay two or three times as much money for half or less of the knowledge, experience, and representation.
Myth # 10. When the case is over, I will just get the conviction expunged. FALSE. Arizona does not have expungement. Arizona does not have the authority to erase something from one’s criminal record. The closest thing Arizona allows for is “Setting Aside the Conviction.” This does not erase it from one’s record, but will have the words “Set Aside” accompany the conviction, which may look favorable to employers and other people doing background checks on a person.