Written by Bill DeNardo. Posted in Legal Blog

DUI Stop Advice from a Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer: Why Passengers should act like Elle Woods, not Resse Witherspoon

Legally Blonde is a terrific movie. In it, Reese Witherspoon plays Elle Woods, the sheltered, seemingly shallow, overachiever who attends Harvard Law. The perception is that she won’t last a week at Harvard, let alone go on to become an attorney. There is more to Elle, however, than what is on the surface. She uses her intelligence, grace, and COMMON SENSE, to succeed beyond everyone’s wildest expectation.

Very recently, the actress that played Elle Woods, Reese Witherspoon, was in the news. She was arrested and charged with Disorderly Conduct in Atlanta. The charge stems from her behavior, as a front-seat passenger, while her husband was being investigated for suspicion of drunk driving. Witherspoon was combative, obnoxious and disruptive. I venture to say her character, Elle Woods, would have handled the situation must differently.

Witherspoon’s arrest highlights why it is important to behave appropriately as a passenger in a vehicle stopped by the police. As a well-versed PA DUI lawyer, here are a few of my simple suggestions:

1. Keep quiet: a Passenger is under no obligation to say anything. At times, the police may “go fishing” to see if there is contraband in the car or on the passenger. A passenger has a right not to incriminate him or herself. It is okay to politely and gracefully decline the officer’s attempts to have you surrender your constitutional rights.

2. Do not consent to a search of your person: Police can search you if there is reason to believe you are armed and dangerous. Short of that, an officer would typically need your consent to search. If you grant consent, all bets are off and any contraband an officer finds on you is likely coming into evidence against you.

3. Behave: Do not act like Reese Witherspoon. Stay out of the way and let the police do their investigation into the driver uninterrupted. The police do have a tough job and the last thing that you want to do is make yourself the subject of the investigation.

As an experienced Pennsylvania DUI lawyer with over fifteen years in practice, I have handled many cases where passengers have been charged with crimes. More often than not, those passengers did not follow these basic steps.

Tags: ,