What to do if you’ve been pulled over for an OVI

Published on December 7, 2020

Getting pulled over by the police is never ideal. At the Law Offices of Warner Mendenhall, we represent clients in a variety of criminal matters. We fight for our client’s rights, and our initial consultations are free. If you have been charged with an OVI, please reach out to us here.

We hope that no one ever gets pulled over for an OVI offense. However, if you do, remember your rights and how exercising them may affect your chances of getting your case dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense. The police are limited by the 4th Amendment. This Amendment protects you against unreasonable searches and seizures. However, the automobile exception generally affords you less privacy than if the police were trying to search your home. Generally, the police may search your car under the following circumstances: 

  1. If you give them consent
  2. The officer has probable cause
  3. A search is incident to an arrest
  4. A search related to the officer’s safety. (this is usually limited to the area within your immediate control)
  5. If the officer obtains a search warrant

In terms of an OVI, probable cause is usually easy for a police officer to claim. They could get it by smelling marijuana in a car, noticing a strong alcohol odor, or observing bloodshot eyes. These scenarios give the officer probable cause to search the areas of your car within your immediate control. (It is important to note that this does not allow them to search your locked trunk). 

If you are pulled over, we advise our clients to say as little as possible to the police. We also advise our clients on the unreliability of field sobriety tests. The three most common tests are the horizontal gaze, the walk and turn, and the one-legged stand. Of the three, the horizontal gaze is the most accurate, with most studies suggesting that it has a 77% accuracy rate. For more information on field sobriety tests, see this website.

If you are booked, do not waive your Miranda rights. Try and speak to an attorney as soon as you can. If you cannot reach an attorney before your arraignment, we generally advise clients to plead not guilty at the arraignment. After the arraignment, your attorney will work with the prosecutor to see if a plea deal can be arranged. If you want to fight your case, your attorney will represent you in the case through the trial stage.

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