For many people, going out after a busy work day with a few workers to enjoy in a Happy Hour or going out for the night with some friends to a local bar or club is rather commonplace. However, after a few drinks, a great night out could potentially end in tragedy.
One of the biggest misconceptions about DUI/OWI arrests is that you have to be drunk to get into trouble. That is NOT true! When most people think about someone being drunk, we picture someone stumbling and bumbling around, having trouble keeping their balance, leaning all over their friends. Obviously, someone in that condition should never get behind the wheel of a car. Those types of situations are much more cut and dry. Where people get into trouble is when they believe they can have a few drinks, not “get drunk,” and safely drive themselves back home after the bar. In Indiana, you do not have to be “drunk” to be arrested for OWI; you only need to be intoxicated.
In most OWI situations, the interaction between the potentially intoxicated driver and law enforcement occurs on the road. The only 100% way of not being stopped and charged with OWI is to never drive after you have had anything to drink. If you have had a few drinks, your best options are to call Uber, a taxi, or to call a friend. The cost of a Uber ride will be dwarfed in relation to the cost of defending an OWI charge.
When law enforcement is out on patrol, especially in the evening and nighttime, their goal is to stop and prevent OWI drivers. Typically, that means pulling drivers over to determine if they had been drinking or not. In order to avoid being pulled over, you should take the following steps:
- Check your vehicle: Law Enforcement can pull you over if you have something as simple as an equipment violation. If you have a tail light or turn signal light that is broken or not working properly, you risk being pulled over by the police. By making sure all of your vehicle equipment is in proper working order, you avoid being pulled over unnecessarily. You should also make sure that your license plate and car registration are current and up to date.
- Check your driving: With the multitude of traffic laws and codes, it sometimes seems like you could be pulled over for just about anything. While that may seem true, it is not. In order to be initially stopped by the police, they would need probable cause, or at the very least, reasonable suspicion, to make that stop. Simple traffic violation can provide the probable cause needed by police to pull you over. A simple lane change can lead to you being stopped if you fail to properly use your turn signal. While not signaling a lane change during the middle of the day may not lead to you being pulled over, your odds do increase as the sun goes down. Make sure you follow all traffic laws to avoid this situation.
Another situation that sometimes leads to a police stop is when you don’t know where you are going. Driving slow and stopping erratically while driving will put a spotlight on you for law enforcement, as well as other drivers, who may call 911 if they notice anything suspicious in regards to your driving. Another problem that may arise when you don’t know where you are going is the DUI checkpoint. At the DUI checkpoint, you can assume you will be stopped and questioned by the police. Have your license and registration ready. At the DUI checkpoint, police do not need probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop your car. The police are required to publicly announce all checkpoints. Make sure you “check” for checkpoints before heading out for the night.
Finally, a few final tips to help avoid being pulled over needlessly. Always wear your seatbelt! In some counties in Indiana, they have police patrol specifically targeted to look for drivers not wearing their seatbelt. Don’t end up being pulled over because you simply did not put on your seatbelt. Another aspect of your car that can get your pulled over is the amount of window tinting on your vehicle. Darkly tinted windows tend to draw the attention of law enforcement. Don’t put yourself in that position! Police get nervous when there are unknowns. By making you, the driver, visible to law enforcement, you give them one less reason to stop you.
By taking these steps, you will minimize your risks with an OWI in Indiana. With that said, the ultimate advice still holds true: when you drink, don’t drive! When you drive, don’t drink!