It’s all unfolding in front of you right now: You’re over the age of 21, and you’ve had a few drinks. It’s 1 a.m., and you’re within a minute of getting home when you’re lit up by a squad car that you never saw. What do you do now? Sure, you’re going to pull over, but then what?
As opposed to being arrested, as soon as you’ve pulled over, you’re being detained. Whether you’ve consumed any alcohol or not, you’re not free to go anywhere. Now, you have fewer rights than in many other police-contact situations. The legal reasoning behind that is because driving is a privilege and not a right. You have no Miranda rights because you’re merely getting detained, but you do have the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. You should keep your hands on the steering wheel, be courteous and exercise that right by refusing to answer any questions. That’s because, from the instant that the detaining officer walked up to your window, he or she began assessing you for intoxication, and it’s highly likely that everything in your encounter is audio and video recorded. Slurred or mispronounced words are common indicators of intoxication, and it will get used against you.
License, Registration and Insurance
Aside from you, your driver’s license, registration and insurance card will be the first things that the officer who stopped you will want to see. Have them on hand and immediately available whenever you drive. You don’t want to fumble around for any of those items. In the officer’s opinion, that would operate as confusion. People who have consumed too much alcohol are often confused. If you’re placed under arrest, it’s likely that the police officer will note this in his or her report, and it will be used against you.
Step Out of Your Car Please. Here’s What I’d Like You to Do
Expect to be asked to step out of your car and walk to a safe spot at the location of the stop. Assuming that you comply with this request, the officer will be assessing your agility, gait and balance. After that, the officer will ask you to submit to a series of field sobriety tests like walking a straight line heel to toe with your arms at your side. It might sound as if you’re being commanded to take those tests, but no matter what the tone of his or her voice, the officer is merely asking you to take them. Although in a few states, refusing field sobriety tests is admissible into evidence as conscious evidence of guilt, it isn’t recommended that you take them. Sober jurors would even have difficulty passing them back in the jury room.
If you’ve consumed any alcohol at all, it’s likely that you’re going to be taken into custody for purposes of breath testing at the police station. You’re still being detained, and the officer must establish probable cause to arrest you for DUI. Confusion, slurred words, and refusal to submit to field sobriety tests just aren’t enough to place you under arrest for DUI with a blood alcohol content of .08 or above. If you do submit to breath testing, and the result is .08 or higher, you’ll be placed under arrest right away. That’s when the right to an attorney is triggered. You’ll want to speak with an attorney who concentrates their practice on DUI. You have the option of refusing breath testing too, but there’s an easy solution for that. A search warrant for blood testing can be obtained.
Remember that anything potentially incriminating that you do from the moment of detention can and will be used against you. Don’t give police and prosecutors the evidence that they need to convict you with. As soon as you can, contact an attorney who focuses their practice on DUI defense.