Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Think Twice Before Modifying Your Car

Most people are aware that many modifications to cars are illegal: a louder exhaust, different headlights, license plate covers, etc.  However, most people are also willing to risk that minor traffic ticket to have their car look a certain way.  There may be more serious consequences to those "minor" modifications. 

In the past, we have certainly advocated that you prevent all possible circumstances in which you would drive after drinking (if you haven't seen those posts, here's a good start for you:  More Than Just A DUI).  What we have not yet addressed is how some DUI arrests come about. 

Aside from some exceptions (such as DUI checkpoints), the police officer must have reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause (depending on the situation) to pull you over while you are driving.  They cannot randomly target you to pull you over to see if you have been drinking (again, there are some exceptions to this).  So here is how the scenario plays out: you decided you wanted a modified exhaust for your car and this exhaust happens to be an illegal modification.  A few weeks, months, etc. later you go to happy hour with co-workers after a long day and have a couple beers.  You've paced yourself and feel fine to drive so you get in your car to drive home. 

Let's stop here for a moment for a brief note.  You should realize you may FEEL fine to drive and may not actually be fine to drive.  Most people do not get into a car after happy hour thinking they should not be driving and decide to drive anyways. 

Now, back to our scenario.  You are driving home and are not swerving or showing any other signs that you are intoxicated or have had a couple of drinks.  You don't go through a checkpoint.  You do, however, pass a police officer, who happens to suspect that your exhaust is an illegal modification to your car.  That police officer then pulls you over to ticket you for your illegal exhaust (this is the minor ticket you decided was worth risking for having your car the way you like).  During this minor traffic stop, the police officer notices a smell of alcohol on your breath.  From here, it all of the sudden turns from a minor traffic stop to a DUI investigation in which you may be subjected to field sobriety tests, breathalyzers and potentially arrested for a DUI. 

The point of this post is to bring awareness to you that minor modifications to vehicles may have more long term, serious consequences that you should seriously consider before making those modifications.  Our bigger message, however, is to continue to raise awareness to you and the community that having a couple of drinks and then driving is a bad idea all around. 

If you have any questions about this post, have been charged with a minor traffic offense or a DUI and would like a consultation, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or clbaudean@baudeanlaw.com