DRIVER'S RIGHTS IN ALASKA

Our privilege to drive in Alaska is one of our most important rights. Often, our livelihoods, ability to get medical treatment, or even to school or college depends on our ability to drive a motor vehicle. Public transportation in Anchorage and Alaska often does not suit our needs.

To protect that important privilege to drive, we often advise our clients to always make sure their vehicles are mechanically sound, comply with all municipal and state regulations (j., windows aren't tinted more than the legal standard, front and rear license plates in place and correctly displayed with current tag in place on rear plate); we advise clients to always observe the speed limit and all other rules of the road (i.e., proper use of turn signals, observation of stop sign / lights, and proper lane changes to name but a few reasons cops can use as a reason for stopping your vehicle).

Remember, the use of cell phones has proliferated, and we advise our clients that passengers in other vehicles, pedestrians and cashiers at drive-thru restaurants make numerous reddi (report every drunk driver immediately) reports daily. Thus, observation of the speed limits, and other rules of the road often times will avoid any police contact.

We'll all agree that Alaska driving conditions, even in the summer, are perilous what with bad roads, no shoulders, moose, bears and other wild life making conditions hazardous. In winter, the driving conditions are usually horrible, what with black ice and snow obliterating center and other lane division indicators.

As a result, we advise our clients never to drink alcoholic beverages and drive. Just don't do it. But, due to inconvenient public transportation and because Alaska is famous for it's hard working, hard playing, hard partying and hard drinking reputation, many of us drive into the wide, welcoming parking lots of bars and fancy restaurants.

If you do that, have any alcoholic drinks and drive home, remember there are alert (almost predatorily vigilant) COPS nearby, expecting to observe some violation (no matter how minor) in order to justify what is known in the law as an "investigatory stop". During that investigation anything you say is treated as voluntary, not subject to the famous "Miranda" warnings we see given on TV and in the movies.

We advise our clients to simply provide their driver's license, insurance card and car registration, and say nothing. There is no penalty for remaining silent. You don't need to say where you've been, what you've been doing or where you're going, or anything else.

We advise our clients to refuse to do the field sobriety tests the cops order you to do (there is no penalty for not doing it), but you must be firm in your refusal. I'm speaking of the tests in the field, next to the vehicle, out on the road (i.e., the eye or Horizontal Gaze Nystegmus, walk the straight line and the stand on one leg test, alphabet or counting tests).

To us, these are unfair tests, never designed to be used under Alaska weather and road conditions. The police use them to justify your arrest for DUI (by establishing what is known in the law as "probable cause" where no particularly bad driving has been observed.

If you are arrested for DUI, immediately request, and continue to request, to telephone a relative, friend or lawyer for legal advice. Once you are under arrest for DUI you are required to blow into the datamaster at the police station. IF you refuse you will be charged with the crime of "refusal" which has penalties comparable to DUI.

Remember don't talk to police except to refuse field sobriety tests and to request to telephone a friend, relative, or lawyer. Upon arrest telephone our law office. We have successfully defended Alaskans in DUI and other criminal charges for over 20 years.


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