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Charles H. Williams,
Attorney and Counselor
at Law, P.S.
707 South Snoqualmie
Suite 4A
Seattle, WA 98108

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What not to do if you're pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving

On an ordinary afternoon in Chicago recently, a driver was pulled over by the police. Initially, police say, they became suspicious because the driver appeared to be speeding when he passed the police station. When they gave chase, the driver is said to have nearly hit a police car before he was pulled over. Upon questioning, the officers report, they observed an open liquor bottle in the car and concluded that the driver was driving drunk.

So far, these events weren't so very unusual. Here in Washington State, people do get pulled over for alleged drunk driving, and it is not terribly uncommon for alcohol to be found in cars. A police chase is always a potentially hazardous situation. What happened next, however, was very unusual -- and certainly not the best response to a traffic stop.

According to police report, the driver allegedly offered the officers $5,000 if they would let him go.

"Where are you going to get $5,000 from?" one of the officers asked. In response, the driver apparently handed over a flash drive containing lists of Social Security numbers, credit card account numbers, and other financial information from an unknown source.

It is not clear yet whether the driver was authorized to have that information or just how, assuming for a moment that the details of the police report are full and accurate, he proposed to use it. The flash drive was given to the department's financial crimes unit for analysis.

Why such a large bribe? It may be because the driver had three prior DUI convictions and his driver's license had been revoked in 2001. He is apparently not eligible for a new license until 2021. Depending on his particular situation, he will probably be charged (as he likely would be in Washington) with felony DUI.

This case is an example of something that is typical in one way and very atypical in another. First, it is surprisingly common for habitual offenders to be convicted several times, perhaps for reasons of addiction. We see such cases in the news fairly frequently.

On the other hand, habitual offenders are not at all representative of the "typical" person arrested for DUI or even felony DUI. If you or someone you care about has been arrested for drunk driving, you know that's true -- you wouldn't try to bribe a police officer, would you?

Source: Chicago Tribune, "In a flash, DUI arrest turns into something more," June 8, 2012

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