As a Washington DC DUI lawyer who offers free consultations, I get to hear a lot of stories of how people got arrested for suspicion of drunk driving. I generally know what questions the officer asked before the prospective client tells me. The reason for this is because these questions are right out of the police DWI Detection and Field Sobriety Testing course they were required to take. Basically everything a DC police officer says or does during a DUI stop has been taught to them to illicit incriminating responses.
When an officer asks you for your license and registration, this is actually part of several tests. The first part of the test is called a “divided attention test.” The police officer asks for two things, your license and registration. Once you hand over the license, they ask an unrelated question to distract you in hopes that you forget to also produce your registration. If you forget, this an official “clue” that you may be driving under influence. Washington, DC police officers are also trained to watch for trouble holding your license. If you have “fumbling fingers” it is a clue that you may be driving while intoxicated (DWI). It is best to have your registration and drivers license in a place that is easy to access so that you can hand them over at the same time. It is also best not to fall into the trap that is often shown on TV where the driver has his or her registration under a pile of unpaid DC traffic violations or parking tickets.
Many people arrested for DUI in DC think the only thing that matters is whether they pass a field sobriety test or have a certain blood alcohol content (BAC) on either a breathalyzer or urine test, but the truth is, much of the evidence that can be used against you comes from your interaction with the police from the time the officer first approaches your car to the time they ask you to exit the vehicle. There are three phases of a DUI arrest in DC, the vehicle in motion phase, the personal contact phase, and the arrest decision phase. Everything I have just discussed falls into the personal contact phase. In part two of this post, I will continue to discuss some of the questions officers ask during this phase of the drunk driving arrest.