When it comes to getting stopped for a DUI, the officer that pulls you over require probable cause to do so. While erratic driving, such as swerving between lanes, are often a good indicator for the officer, it isn’t always the cause. Unfortunately, there are a number of things that are entirely unrelated that you can be pulled over for. Once you’re pulled over, the officer no longer needs the probable cause as they’ve already got you stopped. One of these instances, that occurs all too often even when alcohol isn’t a factor, is failure to use a turn signal.

Typically during the day, failure to use your turn signal will just result in some dirty looks from the driver (now) behind you. Nighttime, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. Here, officers are looking for a reason to stop people, especially when it comes to rooting out impaired drivers.

When Should You Use Your Turn Signal?

In the state of Maryland, you’re not required to use your turn signal when it comes to changing lanes, only when you’re changing direction, or actively turning your vehicle. The exception to the rule is when changing lanes affects other drivers, such as having to brake or swerve because you pulled in front of them.

This can result in you getting pulled over, which in turn can lead to a suspicion of a DUI or a DUI arrest if the officer determines you are under the influence. Because of this, it’s important to make sure you allow plenty of space between you and another vehicle if you’re not using your turn signal. The safest bet however, is to use your turn signal regardless of if you’re changing direction or just changing lanes.

What Should I do if I’m pulled over?

Don’t panic. More often than not, you’re being pulled over for something minor. Pull over safely and quickly, turning your hazard lights on and your engine off after you do. By working with the officer during this moment, not only are you suggesting cooperation but also that you’ve simply made a mistake, which happens to everyone at some point or another. In Maryland, it’s not illegal to drink and drive, which means there’s nothing wrong with have a few drinks and then driving home.

Being over the legal limit, or drunk driving, is against the law however. If you get stopped for a minor traffic violation, it’s in your best interest to cooperate with the officer, so as to avoid other issues and charges (especially if you’ve had a drink on your way home.) If you’ve been arrested for a DUI and feel there was no probable cause for the officer to pull you over, then hire a lawyer. Having expert advice from a DUI defense lawyer can make the difference between getting a point on your license for not using your turn signal and being charged and convicted for a DUI. The best defense to avoid this altogether is to make sure you both understand and follow the rules of the road to avoid getting pulled over to begin with.

+Andrew is one of the leading DUI and criminal defense attorneys in both the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia. On his law blog, he discusses Maryland DUI law, has numerous videos on the subject and has been asked to appear on national television to offer his legal opinion on high-profile criminal cases.