Don’t make your situation worse. Follow this advice.
The President recently announced a lessening of the lockdown burden, from Alert Level 3 to Alert Level 1. Although the outright alcohol ban was lifted a few weeks ago, we were still experiencing curtailed opening hours for bottle stores and a 10pm curfew for visiting bars and restaurants. Put together, these restrictions had the effect of reducing alcohol consumption and limiting the number of cars on the road late at night (which is when most drunk driving happens). It is inevitable that we will now see more arrests for driving under the influence (DUI), as bars stay open longer and alcohol can be purchased for off-consumption at weekends. If you are caught driving under the influence, this article will help.
As always, our advice is: Don’t drink and drive! But if you find yourself behind the wheel of a car after consuming alcohol, even if you think you have not exceeded the limit, and you are stopped in a roadblock or are otherwise arrested for DUI, here are three things you need to know.
1. Don’t resist!
Whatever you do, don’t put up a fight. Don’t resist arrest or refuse a breathalyser test. We cannot stress this enough. Stay calm, be polite and courteous, and comply with all the police officer’s requests. If you are a little bit tipsy, it can be difficult to think straight. You may think you are more amusing than you are; or you may be less deferential to authority than you would normally be. But making jokes or challenging authority will only make your situation worse. So take heed of this advice now, in a sober state, and commit it to memory. Your survival instinct will hopefully bring the information to mind when you need it most.
2. Admit nothing!
While it is important to be polite and compliant with law enforcement officers, it is not in your interests to volunteer information. You can’t negotiate your way out of the situation by saying, “But officer, I only had one drink.” Rather than a proclamation of innocence, this is tantamount to an admission of guilt. You are only obliged to give your name, address and ID number. Even if the officer asks how many drinks you’ve had, you don’t have to answer. Don’t answer questions that could incriminate you without an attorney present.
3. Call a criminal defence lawyer
And this brings us to the third thing you must do: call your lawyer. If you call us, we will come to your assistance 24/7. We are experts in negotiating bail. However, it is possible that you may be kept in a cell overnight to sober up. We have an excellent track record in securing bail for clients, but much will depend on the time of night you are arrested, how drunk you are, and the mood of the investigating officer. However, you are entitled to a phone call – use it to call a bail attorney, not your mother. It’s your best chance of sleeping in your own bed that night.
What happens next?
When you are released from custody, either the same night or the next day…or Monday morning if it is a weekend and you are very unlucky…you will be given a court date. In all likelihood it will be postponed, so be prepared for a long wait. It can take months before your case will be heard.
A conviction for DUI can have a severe impact on your employment prospects and will remain on your record for 10 years. That’s a long time to suffer the consequences of a mistake. Talk to us about diversion. If you are a first-time offender and your alcohol level is only slightly above the legal limit, we may be able to negotiate diversion for you. Diversion is an alternative to a criminal sentence and usually involves some form of community service. However, if you are found to be significantly over the limit, a prosecutor is unlikely to entertain a recommendation for diversion.
Points to ponder
In addition to our three key tips, here are a few other factors to bear in mind. Firstly, don’t judge your level of inebriation by someone else’s. Your best mate may appear stone cold sober after three beers, but that doesn’t mean you are (it doesn’t mean they are either; they may simply be better at outwardly managing alcohol but are just as dangerous behind the wheel). Everyone processes alcohol differently, based on blood volume, level of hydration and metabolism. Keep a home breathalyser in your glove compartment or bag. It’s not a perfect measure – it can under-report breath alcohol levels – but if it says you are over the limit, call a friend, call a taxi…just don’t drive home.
Secondly, you may think you only have a few blocks on back streets to travel to get home. You won’t encounter any roadblocks, or even any other traffic, so it’s safe to drive home even when you know you’ve had one too many. Right? Wrong! Imagine your neighbour has the same idea. They are driving under the influence, and they crash into you. If they are killed, even if they caused the accident, you will be culpable for their death by virtue of being over the limit.
Imagine an even worse scenario: a pedestrian crosses the road in front of you. They didn’t look where they were going and maybe they had also had a few beers with friends in a bar. As a driver you have done nothing wrong; the pedestrian stepped in front of your car. But you have been drinking, and so the incident is automatically your fault. If someone is hurt or killed, you will face a criminal conviction. Diversion will be off the table, even for a first offence. Is it really worth the risk?
Save our number…but try not to need it!
Cape Town attorneys SD Law & Associates are experts in DUI. If you are arrested for driving under the influence, contact criminal defence lawyer Simon Dippenaar on 076 116 0623. Save the number in your phone…better safe than sorry.