Most people understand that driving while intoxicated is unlawful. When a motorist encounters a police officer who believes that he or she was driving while intoxicated, the motorist will generally understand that he or she may be arrested. When the officer makes it clear that the motorist is under arrest, the motorist should quietly comply with the officer’s requests. Failure to do so can result in various other charges following the arrest for driving under the influence.
- The Underlying Violation: Intoxicated motorists routinely come to the attention of officers by committing a traffic or vehicle code violation. Whether a motorist is pulled over for traveling into oncoming traffic, speeding, changing lanes without signaling, or simply driving a vehicle with malfunctioning lighting, that offense does not merge into the charge for driving under the influence. The motorist may still be cited and face all the traditional penalties associated with the violation, including fines and potentially increased insurance rates.The costs of a minor traffic violation will usually pale in comparison to a conviction for driving under the influence, making the violation little more than an afterthought in most conditions. However, many intoxicated motorists are involved in hit and run accidents, in which they collide with a vehicle or pedestrian and leave the scene. In most jurisdictions, this is a misdemeanor in its own right. If a person was injured, hit and run charges often constitute felonies, making them more serious than the underlying charge for driving under the influence.
- Bribery: It is common for arrested parties, including intoxicated motorists, to ask if they can do anything to avoid the arrest. Such a request is common and lawful. However, bribing a public official is a felony. A bribe is some sort of inducement that is provided with the intent to influence the law enforcement officer’s decision. Inducements include but are not limited to money or sexual favors. Officers in the United States are highly unlikely to accept a bribe and any attempts to bribe the officer may lead to additional charges.Not every dim-witted attempt to influence the officer will result in charges, however. Officers on the side of the road tend to react to attempted bribes with annoyance and an unsubtle hint that such conduct would not be prudent. Motorists who are foolish enough to press the issue to the extent that they annoy the officer and provide strong evidence for all of the elements of the crime may be charged with attempted bribery.
- Resisting, Delaying, or Obstructing an Officer / Hindering Prosecution / Resisting Arrest: The verbiage and titles of applicable statutes vary by state, but most jurisdictions prohibit individuals from obstructing, impeding, or otherwise delaying an officer in the performance of his or her duties. Officers on the side of the road often apply this law arbitrarily and each jurisdiction applies the local statute differently. Within the context of a stop for driving under the influence, a sober passenger who exchanges places with an intoxicated motorist and lies to the officer is likely to be charged with a violation of this law.Resisting arrest is another common issue with arrests for driving under the influence. As the name suggests, resisting arrest occurs when a subject resists arrest. Some jurisdictions divide a charge for resisting arrest into multiple categories, including resisting without violence and resisting with violence. Resisting arrest can be as simple as pulling away when the officer is attempting to place handcuffs on the motorist, although initiating a foot pursuit is also common. In addition to being illegal in its own right, resisting arrest can be an issue when determining bail.
- Assault / Battery on a Police Officer: If the resistance involves the defendant striking the police officer or making him or her fear that the defendant will strike the officer, the defendant may be charged with assaulting or battering a police officer. Assaulting or battering a police officer is typically a felony, although some jurisdictions only make it a felony if the officer incurred substantial bodily injury. A common issue in such charges is whether the defendant intentionally struck or threatened the officer; pulling back one’s elbow to avoid being handcuffed and elbowing the officer can result in charges, but may not necessarily involve an intent to strike the officer.
- Disorderly Conduct / Disturbing the Peace: Disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace are catch-all violations that may be levied against an arrested party who is acting in a tumultuous manner or loitering. The exact verbiage varies by jurisdiction, but the statutes are often drafted broadly to encompass a wide variety of conduct. Whether planning to retain a Texas or a Tampa DUI lawyer, exercising one’s right to remain silent when being arrested is always prudent.
If you or anyone you know is accused of driving while intoxicated, remain silent and contact an attorney as soon as possible. Under existing law and the United States Constitution, the defendant will have ample opportunity to fight the charges later. Assert your rights on the scene, but fight in the court system. The side of the road is not the time to plead one’s case.
A former media law reporter, Ann Bailey posts these points of law for anyone wanting clarification of DUI arrest protocol, including compounding factors in the event. The Tampa DUI lawyer group of Katz and Phillips, P.A. sees countless varieties of arrest circumstances in Florida, and are experienced fighting for the rights and futures of any client, regardless of their arrest situations.