What to Do After You Get a DUI

Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Attorney Explains

Video Transcript:

Frank Walker:

Have your attorney—an experienced DUI/DWI attorney—argue with that officer. They can win those arguments. You can’t.

Rob Rosenthal:

If you're pulled over for suspected DUI, do you know what you should or maybe more importantly we should not do, and how having an attorney on your side can help you out? Well, we're going to find out all of that right now because that's what we're going to ask the lawyer.

Hi again, everybody, I'm Rob Rosenthal with askthelawyers.com, and my guest is Pittsburgh attorney Frank Walker. I want to remind you, if you'd like to get information and ask questions about your specific situation, just go to askthelawyers.com, click the button at the top of the page that says “Ask a Lawyer”, and you can do your asking right there.

Frank, good to see you again. Thank you so much for answering our questions.

Frank Walker:

Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.

Rob Rosenthal:

Now, I know you're going to want to start out and just tell everybody, “Do not drink and drive.” That's the first thing up front.

Frank Walker:

Absolutely. Please just don't drink and drive. If you think you're going to go out and have a good time, please have a designated driver ahead of time; there are so many options right now. For me, back in my day, it was a taxi or a designated driver, but now you have Lyft, you have Uber, and I'm sure about the time this video comes out someone else will pop up with a rideshare opportunity, so just please don't drink and drive. There’s just too much to lose.

Rob Rosenthal:

That said, if someone is pulled over for suspected DUI/DWI, it's important that they know what their rights are. So let's just start at the beginning; someone's pulled over for suspected DUI. What's your advice? Is there something they should do or maybe more importantly not do?

Frank Walker:

Well, there's a huge misconception that if you refuse, then they can't tell whether or not you have alcohol or drugs in your system; that’s a huge misconception. When you get your driver's license there's a thing called implied consent. So it implies that you are given permission to ride on the road, and if you're stopped by officers, you give consent to have them test your blood. If you refuse in some states like Pennsylvania, it is a mandatory one-year license suspension. So please don't think you can just watch YouTube videos and think, “Oh, this is how I get out of a DUI.” That's not what we're telling you. We're telling you how to get through it.

Number one, pay attention to what the officer is telling you. Number two, your main goal is to get home. Follow the instructions. If they ask you to get out of the car, get out of the car, conduct the field sobriety test, listen to what they are telling you, follow the instructions. If you refuse, there are greater penalties down the road, so just make sure you're following the instructions. Your main goal is to get home. Hopefully you're not in a position like this in the first place, but if so your main goal is to get home. Follow the instructions and then once you're done, if you are arrested, contact an experienced DUI attorney.

Rob Rosenthal:

Do the police have to have probable cause in order to pull somebody over and perform these tests?

Frank Walker:

They do, but the reality is that officers try to look for it; sometimes go hunting. For example, if they don't have probable cause and they think you are under the influence, they'll follow you for a while and maybe run your license plate; if nothing happens there, they'll see if you run over the line a little bit to the right or to the left. If you don't put a blinker on or, worst case scenario, they’ll see if air fresheners or something are hanging from your rearview mirror. You have to understand that sometimes they're just looking for something to stop you so they can pull you over and test you for a DUI.

Rob Rosenthal:

If somebody thinks they've been pulled over improperly, is the side of the road with the officer at the time the place to have that discussion, Frank?

Frank Walker.

Absolutely not, and I cannot stress this enough. You're not going to win an argument with an officer on the side of the road, on the back of the road, a side of the hill, it does not matter. You're not going to win that argument with the officer. The officer is going to be determined to give you a DUI. Your best case scenario is to get away safely once you're done, whether you're getting a ride to—hopefully not getting a ride to jail—maybe you got a ride to the police station and someone's going to pick you up. Have your attorney—an experienced DUI/DWI attorney—argue with that officer. They can win those arguments, you can’t.

Rob Rosenthal:

You mentioned the test. So if somebody says, “Nope, I don't submit to the breathalyzer. I don't submit to the other sobriety tests.” Are they immediately taken in for a blood test or do they do blood tests on the side of the road? How does that work?

Frank Walker:

Usually they'll take you in for a blood test to the nearest hospital. They'll ask you, “Do you consent to a blood test?” or “Do you want us to take your blood to test you?” They'll ask you that, and there are so many different ways they're going to ask you, and sometimes you're not in the best state of mind to answer the question. You could think, “Oh, maybe I don't have to answer this.” You need to answer that question in the affirmative, so if they get the blood, you can always fight about it later. If it's unlawfully obtained, you can fight about it later. You're not going to win that argument on the side of the road.

Rob Rosenthal:

What are some of the penalties involved for a DUI and say first-time conviction, versus maybe not a first-time conviction?

Frank Walker:

For a first-time conviction, it could be up to 48 hours in jail. Second time conviction, it could be up to six months in jail in West Virginia. In Pennsylvania, it varies in different levels; for a first-time it could be up to six months. The second time could be up to a year, and even after that it's mandatory minimums.

Rob Rosenthal:

What about license revocation? Is that just for sure?

Frank Walker:

Yes, it is. It is an unfortunate consequence of the DUI arrest; because if you get arrested for DUI, you have two parallel systems running. You have the criminal system with its right to remain silent, a jury trial, and a judge is going to say guilty or not guilty. Then you have the administrative side with the DMV; they are going to determine whether or not your license gets suspended, if so for how long, and whether or not you’re going to be able to get what they call a “bread and butter license”, which is an occupational license for you to get back and forth from work during the time in which your license is suspended.

Rob Rosenthal:

So let's talk about why it’s helpful to have somebody like yourself who has experience with all this. What can you do for this person? Why is it helpful to call somebody like you, Frank?

Frank Walker:

A lot of times there are little small details, like why did they stop you? Did they have probable cause? Did they believe there was reasonable suspicion? Did they have the right legal justification to pull you over? Were the tests performed properly? Was everything filmed? Is there a body cam? Is there a dash cam? Why were you pulled over? Was it a flat road or flat surface for you to perform the field sobriety test on? Was it raining? Did you have on high heels? Were there any potholes involved? There are so many different things you can think about when you talk about a DUI as to whether or not everything was done properly. You need someone who is experienced in the area to take a look at it, because if not, you're forfeiting all your rights.

You may just go ahead, plead guilty, and think, “Oh, it's not a big deal. I got a finel.” Well, now you have the DMV coming down your neck saying, “Well, wait a minute. Now we have to suspend your license for 12 months.” And you might think, “Wait a minute. I just got a fine.” But no; there's two separate parallel administrations who are running and you have to make sure you're protected on one side and the other. In fact there's three if you're a student, because now Student Conduct is going to become involved, and they're going to say, “Well, you need to talk to us also because we may have to suspend you, because this is your second or third DUI.” You need an attorney who understands all the nuances and everything that could happen to you if you get into that situation.

Rob Rosenthal:

And one attorney can help with all three different areas?

Frank Walker:

Yes. Yes, it's our job. Whether it's me or anyone else, it's an experienced DUI attorney’s job to understand what your exposure is, and who will explain everything to you step by step. You may think it's just one thing in a criminal system, but then it's also the DMV, and it's also Student Conduct. And then you may also have to deal with your job. Your job may have some issues with you getting a DUI because maybe you're driving a company car. They’ll want to know what's their exposure, and if they're going to be in trouble. They're definitely going to be pointing the finger at you. You need to understand what your exposure is.

Rob Rosenthal:

Does it matter at what point in the process somebody calls you, Frank? Is it ever too early or can it be too late? What do you think?

Frank Walker:

That is an excellent question. It is never too early. Never too early. The moment you're going to the police station, you get out of the car, you're leaving, and they say, “Okay, here is your bond. You're free to go.” You’ll get a release on your own recognizance, or your parents can pick you up, or have a friend come and post your $100-$200 bond, the moment you walk out with that thick envelope of paper, you call an attorney because that's when you need them the most.

Your emotions are going to be too high. You're going to go home and you're going to search online on how to beat a DUI, but that's not the goal. The goal is how to get through it, and maybe they can get through it and maybe beat the DUI or maintain your innocence throughout it and get a nobility verdict, but it's not your job to try to figure that out because the more and more you search, you're going to get overloaded with information. It is not going to be detailed for your specific DUI case. Every case is different and you need an attorney to explain that to you.

Rob Rosenthal:

I’m sure there are dates and time frames and things have to be done by certain times, so you could wait too long to contact an attorney, right?

Frank Walker:

Yeah, a lot of times they wait too long and then you waive your right to a preliminary hearing, or you miss a trial date, or you waive your right to contest the suspension with the DMV. You need to contact them as early as possible because the longer you wait, the more things could happen to you.

Rob Rosenthal:

Lots of really helpful information as always, Frank. Thank you so much for answering our questions. It's been a pleasure.

Frank Walker:

Not a problem. Thanks for having me.

Rob Rosenthal:

That’s going to do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been Pittsburgh attorney Frank Walker. I want to remind you if you have questions about your specific situation, go to askthelawyers.com, click the button at the top of the page that says, “Ask a Lawyer”, and it'll walk you through the process right there. Thanks for watching, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers™.

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