First and foremost, I advise strongly against drinking and driving. Legal consequences aside, it’s dangerous—not only to yourself but to others on the road—and the last thing you want is to be injuring and/or killing yourself and others. If you have been drinking, the best bet to your safety, as well as everybody else’s, is not to drive. This post is intended to serve educational and informational purposes and does not take the place of nor should it be interpreted as legal advice. Contact your lawyer in the event of legal issues.
It’s late and you are driving home after having had a beer or two at a restaurant or bar. That’s when you see the flashing blue lights behind you and realize you are being pulled over by an officer of the law. At this point, many people will begin feeling anxious or nervous, whether or not they have actually done anything wrong. In situations like these it is imperative that you understand how the law works in your state and that you know your rights and exercise them so as to avoid interacting with the officer in a manner counterproductive to your legal well-being.
The first thing to remember is that you have a right to remain silent. You are protected under the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution from self-incrimination, even if that comes in the form of giving self-incriminating answers to questions that the officer is asking. While you are required to show the officer your license and registration, and step out of the car if s/he requests it, it is more than within reason and the law to tell the officer politely: “I wish to remain silent.” (Remember to remain polite! Officers are human beings too!) It isn’t hard to say things that seem self-incriminating, especially if you are nervous which could lead to slurred, stumbled, or confused speech, whether you’ve been drinking anything or not.
Refusing Field Sobriety Tests
You also have the right to decline any type of field sobriety test, verbal or physical. This includes the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, where the officer asks you to follow a light pen with your eyes, the Preliminary Alcohol Screen (PAS) Breath Test, aka the breathalyzer (unless you are under 21), and any other test of your balance, memory, or verbal skills. Do note that if you refuse these field sobriety tests, this can be used as evidence against you in court.
If you do exercise your 5th amendment rights and refuse to participate in any field tests, you may want to prepare for arrest upon suspicion of DUI. After arrest, you will legally be required to undergo testing to determine your BAC, and in most places that means that you’ll either be subjected to a breath, blood, or urine chemical test of your choice. There is no getting out of this per the “implied consent” laws that most states have established. Breath tests are administered quickly and yield rapid results, while blood or urine samples must be obtained at a hospital. If you can, opt for the latter, as those tests tend to be more accurate, and they require the officer to write a much more objective account the arrest. If the officer sees that you are above or even close to the legal limit via the breathalyzer on site, they are much more likely to emphasize and even possibly embellish certain elements in their report that could lead to a DUI conviction.
In the event that you are arrested under suspicion of DUI, your first two moves are going to be to post bail and to contact your lawyer. Remain polite to the officer at all times and remember these tips, and your lawyer will be much more able to build a case for you and successfully defend you in court of law.
Guest Post: Mary Grace