What happens when someone is arrested for drunk driving?

In connection with being arrested on charges of drunk driving, it is likely that you’ll be searched by the police, your car will get towed and you’ll be sent to jail where you’ll be “booked.” In certain circumstances you may be able to get out of jail within a few hours of your arrest, either by posting bail or “on your own recognizance.”  If not, then you may ask the judge to release you at your first court hearing.  

When permitted to use the phone in jail you should immediately call a drunk driving attorney or get a friend or family member to help you find one. The drunk driving attorney can guide you through the court process, as well as assist you with any related DMV hearings that may be required.  After the arrest you’ll not only have to deal with criminal penalties, but also with suspension of your driver’s license and possibly civil lawsuits if anyone was injured in connection with your drunk driving.  

Can I refuse to take a field sobriety test if I have been pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving?

If the police pull you over on suspicion of drunk driving, the police will typically try to give you not only a field sobriety test, but also a breathalyzer test (to test for your BAC concentration). Many states have "implied consent" laws, which mean you are deemed to have already consented to a field sobriety test through the privilege of driving on the roads or obtaining a license.

Regardless, you may still be able to refuse the field sobriety test. Refusals should be made politely and should reference your need to speak to an attorney. If you do refuse, you'll most likely be arrested and taken to jail, where the police officer will ultimately conduct a chemical test – your choice of blood, breath or urine – which can’t be refused.

Some people would prefer to be tested at jail on the theory that by the time they're booked, which could be several hours later, the alcohol in their bloodstream will have further metabolized and, as a result, the person will have a lower BAC. Of course, the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream, the amount of time the arrest process takes, and a number of other factors make every situation different.

In fact, your BAC may even be higher at the jail, depending, again, on the circumstances. Also, there may be penalties for refusing to take the field sobriety test including loss of your license, perhaps for several months and even being charged with a separate refusal-based offense.

If you find yourself in the position of being arrested for a drunk driving offense, contact a drunk driving attorney as soon as possible to determine your best options.

What are the penalties for a drunk driving conviction if another person is injured or killed during the incident?

The answer to this question really depends on state law. In many states, the charges will be elevated to felonies, which carrier harsher penalties including severe prison terms. If a person is killed during the incident, you could be charged with the felony of vehicular manslaughter, which could mean a life sentence in prison.

Do I need to hire a lawyer to defend me in a drunk driving case?

If you are convicted of drunk driving in any state, you face serious fines and penalties, including driver’s license suspension, probation, and even incarceration. Therefore, it is in your best interest to hire an experienced drink driving who is skilled in handling drunk driving cases in your area. 

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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