Despite the many public service announcements to the contrary, it is not illegal in any state to drink and drive. It only becomes illegal when a driver is under the influence or over the limit. This blog post will be the first of many in the next few weeks highlighting the things you need to do if you are planning to drink and drive. This advice will not prevent you from being arrested if you are lawfully stopped and the law enforcement officer believes he or she has probable cause to arrest you. Remember probable cause is the lowest standard of proof in criminal law. The officer only has to have reasonable suspicion that you are under the influence or over the limit to arrest you.
The first thing you need to do is a quick inspection of your motor vehicle. Make sure your tags are not expired and your license plate is properly illuminated. I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the number of DUI cases I've had where the only reason the driver was pulled over is his or her license plate was not properly illuminated. Make sure all the other lights on your vehicle are also properly working. Check the headlights, the tail lights, the running lights and the turn signals. If your muffler is too loud or emitting an abundance of smoke, think about not driving or taking another vehicle. Cracked windshields or rear windows are also an excuse to pull you over. Make sure your vehicle is in reliable working order. A vehicle broken down in traffic or on the side of the road will probably cause a passing law enforcement officer to stop for a safety check. If he or she smells alcohol after checking on your safety, you will be subject to a further investigation.
Be smart. If you know you will have a drink or two take the proper precautions to insure your evening won't end behind bars. In my next blog, I'll discuss safe driving habits that can help you avoid law enforcement attention if you drink and drive.