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Don't be a bad Santa

The holidays are a great time of year for getting together with family and friends. But a Christmas Party isn't really a Christmas Party until someone puts on the Santa suit. While that and the rest of the night can be all fun and games, people tend to drink a little more to match the eating more that is a rite of passage during every holiday season.

Eventually it was time for Santa to go back to the North Pole. Despite the fact that you were having a few cocktails, no one said anything because you seemed fine. So you and your Santa suit head home in your four wheel sleigh. You were obeying all the traffic rules and there were no issues with broken headlights, but a policeman still pulled you over on a street you'd driven down hundreds of times before.

He was not amused by the get-up and simply asked for your driver's license and registration. You dig it out, thinking about the number of cocktails you had and whether you are officially over the BAC of .08. It seems likely that you are. All is not lost, however. The smart move here is to not make any more mistakes.

Chances are you will likely get taken in, but that doesn't mean you should help them build a case against you. Here are a few tips for Santa.

•1. Do not joke around, act belligerent or in any way give the officer reason to be suspicious.

•2. Mind what you say, only speaking when you are spoken to and volunteering no information that is not directly related to his question. Law officers are trained in tactics that induce you to incriminate yourself, so beware.

•3. Now comes the moment of truth: they ask you if you've had anything to drink. You are not required to answer this. You can say you don't recall or nothing at all. Do not say: "I've had a couple of drinks while at a party with friends."

•4. They will then want to administer a Breathalyzer test. Missouri like many other states has an implied consent law, which means you will be charged for refusing to take the test. You will then be arrested, taken in and tested anyway.

The reason not to offer any sort of confession is that there is a chance that the officer did not have probable cause to pull you over. If this is the case, any evidence gained during their investigation is inadmissible. A DWI defense attorney will explore this option, and may also challenge the field tests, which need to follow a specific protocol to be accurate. The Breathalyzer also needs to be properly operated and maintained.

While you may spend some time in jail in a Santa suit, you know that you didn't make matters worse. If you haven't already contacted an attorney experienced in DUI/DWI defense, the smart move is to consult one as soon as possible after the incident. They can sometimes be helpful in getting the charges reduced or dismissed by challenging how the officer handled the arrest.

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Travis Noble is a graduate of the National College for DUI Defense at Harvard University, and he lectures at seminars nationwide on DWI/DUI topics. He is the lawyer whom other lawyers consult to defend their DWI clients. Most importantly, he has a track record of successfully defending some of the toughest DWI cases in Missouri and beyond.

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