This section applies to many DUI situations in Hillsborough County, Tampa, Florida. It is not a substitute for individualized legal advice. Your situation may be different.
If you were drinking and driving in Hillsborough County (Tampa, Florida) and subsequently stopped by a police officer, you are immediately suspected of DUI or driving under the influence even if you’re not intoxicated. First and foremost, you need to remain calm. As difficult as this can be, it’s important. Staying calm will help you be more aware of what you need to do. You must act courteous and polite. Refer to the Hillsborough County officer as “sir,” “ma’am,” or “officer.” Keep in mind the officer is under stress every time they pull a car over, even your’s. Police officers have a dangerous job and approaching an unfamiliar car is no different.
Secondly, have all of your driving information prepared and ready to hand over; that is your driver’s license, registration, and insurance. Having your info handy ahead of time will benefit you in this situation. When pulled over you’re likely to get nervous and possibly shaky. Fumbling papers looks bad. Keep your information in a folder or envelope located in your glove box or center console. Your driver’s license should be easily accessed in your purse or wallet. Having your information in order will lessen the chance of officers thinking you are inebriated.
After you give your papers to the officer remain calm. You should not talk any more than you have to. The more you speak, the bigger the chance you slur one of your words. Anything you say truly can be used against you. Even everyday chit-chat if it provides evidence against you. You will more than likely get the typical question – “Do you know why I pulled you over?” Your answer should almost always be no. This is a trick question designed to get you to admit that you ran a red light, speeding or any number of the infractions you can be pulled over for in Hillsborough County. More than likely you will have the officer’s flashlight pointed in your face, as well as his car spotlight pointed into your mirror blinding you from another angle. The lights are part of an old interrogation tactic. Reason for it – people are less likely to do something out of line when they can’t see and it helps the officer maintain control. With the lights blinding you the officer can now come within the distance necessary to smell your breath and look within your car without fear of you pulling a gun.
“Have you been drinking?” If you say yes, prepare for the full roadside DUI Test. If you lie, and say no, additional charges may be brought against you, and if you show signs of being intoxicated you will more than likely have the full roadside DUI test anyway. Rather than saying no, you should answer, “I’d rather not say.” If the officer asks you to breath or blow in his or her face, simply say “no, sir/ma’am.” If the officer asks how much have you had to drink, reply with “I’d rather not say.” Do not say “I’m not sure” or “I forgot.” This only implies to the officer that you are too intoxicated to remember.
“Please step out of the car”
When the officer asks this, you should comply. When you step out of the car, shut and lock the door behind you. The officer will most likely challenge you on this. If the officer asks if you have something to hide, drugs, or weapons in the car, your response should be, “I’d rather not say.” The officer may ask if he or she can take a look inside your car. Your response should be “No, I do not want you to search my car.” At this point the officer will more than likely threaten to have your car impounded and relay what the daily fee will be for having your car there. If you have alcohol on your breath your car is getting impounded anyway and an impound fee is much less than a DUI fine.
The officer may ask you to open the trunk or one of the doors. If the officer is asking, say no. If the officer is telling you, go ahead and comply.
Now, if the officer starts “telling you” to do other things such as say your ABC’s backwards, stand on one leg and count to ten, or walk a straight line, you have the right to refuse. If you refuse, the officer will do anything they can to convince you that you have to. You should refuse each of these tricks otherwise known as “field sobriety tests.” These will only be used against you in court and in no way can they help you. They are designed to benefit the officer and when you fail one or more, the officer places it in the report as additional evidence that you are intoxicated. Tell the officer that you do not want to do any field tests. Do not say anything to the relation of “I couldn’t do this sober.” That can be taken as an admission of intoxication.
At this stage of the process the officer will attempt a “preliminary breath test” by asking you to blow into a breathalyzer. It is highly recommended to refuse this as well. Just like the field sobriety test, you can refuse it and you should. The “preliminary breath test” is another tool for the officer’s report to justify his probable cause to arrest you for DUI. By refusing you will lose your license for up to a year, but within 10 calendar days of the loss you can contest on a technicality.
Follow these steps, and your chances of being misguided by the police are much less. Hillsborough County Police officers are not happy when you don’t help convict yourself. They may try to act like your friend and tell you that they’re trying to help you, they’re not. The officer will threaten you by telling you that you won’t go home that night, you’re going to lose your car by being towed, or a number of other threats. Keep in mind, if you are charged with a DUI, you did everything in your power to help yourself in light of the offense.