What’s your best option if you are stopped while driving and the officer accuses you of driving while intoxicated? The laws governing a DUI stop provide you less rights than you would have in a routine police encounter. The idea behind this abridged due process during a DUI stop is that driving on California highways is a privilege, not a right, and so you are not entitled to all of the Constitution’s protections. However, you retain some rights if you are pulled over on suspicion of DUI.
When you are stopped for suspected drunk driving, you are considered detained and are not permitted to leave. Even if the officer has not yet told you your Miranda rights, which are not necessary until you are arrested, your right to stay silent is invoked throughout the detention. You must present the police with your driver license (and vehicle registration), but you are not required to answer any questions. As with any police detention or arrest, the best course of action is to cooperate respectfully and offer identification, but to inform the officer of your want to remain silent.
The majority of people intuitively feel that if they answer all police questions, they would be handled more leniently, whereas if they refuse to answer, they will be treated harshly. It’s against the law for a police officer to respond in either of these ways. People frequently react to police queries such as have you been drinking by saying yes, but only one glass of wine or two beers, etc., in the hope that this will convince the cop that they are not under the influence. This is an error. It will not persuade the cop and will be used against you in the event that you are caught and charged. Frequently, when you respond to an officer’s questioning, you provide them with additional evidence to use against you, even if you believe your responses are exculpatory.
If the officer believes you are impaired, he or she will request that you undergo a field sobriety test. These tests include touching your nose with your closed eyes, standing on one foot, and walking in a straight line. The officer will not inform you that doing field sobriety tests is entirely voluntary, and the truth is that the majority of individuals are unaware that they are not forced to do so. It is prudent to inform the officer nicely that you do not wish to undergo these examinations. Why? Because if the police suspects you of being under the influence, he or she will almost surely conclude that you failed the field sobriety tests. (After all, who wouldn’t?) Even if you are entirely sober, performing those tasks can be difficult.) Do not believe that you can pass these tests, even if you are not impaired, and then be on your way. The police uses the field sobriety tests solely to enhance their evidence.
The officer’s ultimate purpose is to have you submit to a chemical test, which will most likely be a breath test at the time of the stop. You must submit to a chemical test only if the officer arrests you for driving while intoxicated. However, before the officer may arrest you, he or she must have probable cause to suspect you are driving while impaired. In other words, the officer has to clearly observe objective factors such as slurred speech, the odor of alcohol, and stumbling. If you choose to deny the submission of a chemical test following your arrest, you will face extra penalties, including an automatic one-year suspension of your driver license (on a first-time DUI; harsher on repeating DUIs). You cannot refuse to submit to the chemical test on the grounds that you have a right to an attorney. While you do have the right to an attorney if you are arrested for DUI, that right does not include the ability to delay the chemical test.
If you’ve recently been charged with a DUI, find a DUI attorney near you!