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Keeping a level head during a traffic stop

No one voiced concerns about your ability to drive at the party, and you thought you were in good shape to drive home. Nonetheless, a cop pulled you over four blocks from your house at a corner you'd taken hundreds of times before.

This scenario isn't unusual. But the fact is: you felt fine and there weren't any safety violations of a broken taillight or burned-out headlight. Rather than getting mad, the smart thing to do is keep a cool head and try and not dig yourself into a deeper hole. There is very likely going to be trouble no matter what, so it's best to minimize it.

Here are 5 strategies that can help.

1. Pull over to the side of the road properly where it is safe to do so. Turn the car off and put the interior light on. Grab your license and registration and have it ready for them. Put your hands on the steering wheel where the police can see them. Do not get out of the car unless asked to do so.

2. Roll down the window and answer questions politelly. If there is anyone else in the car, make sure they follow suit. Answer the questions that are asked -- do not volunteer any information other than that which specifically asked for. The police are trained to get you to incriminate yourself, so be mindful of contradictions.

3. Did you have anything to drink? This is the question. This is the point where you need to decide how the rest of the night will go. Do not say you had a few drinks. Say you don't recall or nothing at all. Either way, you are going to be tested and the less you say the better.

4. To test or not to test? There is an implied consent law that all drivers enter into when they get behind the wheel. It means that if you drive, you consent to a test for blood alcohol level. You can refuse a field test in most cases, but they can then arrest you and you are tested anyway. It's also worth noting that your penalties will be as severe as a DWI or DUI even if you don't take the test. The police or prosecutor may also use your refusal as an admission of guilt in a court of law.

5. If you haven't done so by the time you are tested, contact an attorney with experience in the field of DWI/DUI defense.

An attorney can be helpful in several ways. They will review your case to see if there was probable cause for getting pulled over. If there isn't probable cause, all evidence gathered during the stop will be dismissed.

Did they follow proper protocol during the stop? Each field test requires a specific set of steps and police make mistakes just like everyone else. An attorney will also try to determine whether the Breathalyzer well maintained and operating properly. There are many things an attorney can do now to save you money later.

Everyone deserves the right to a proper trial, which includes being innocent until proven guilty. It's also worth noting that all charges should be challenged to the fullest and reduced if possible.

DWI/DUI convictions follow people for years, particularly students who can lose student aid or perhaps get turned down for a job because of their criminal record. One bad decision doesn't need to be followed by others. Get an attorney to help you look after your future no matter where you are in life.

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